It’s very quiet in Israel today. Over 7 million people are grieving the loss of 23,477 soldiers and victims of terror, who fell defending our right to live as free Jews in the Jewish homeland.
Only a few weeks ago, the country was full of tourists: Jews visiting for Passover and Christians for Easter. Then they left us to our grief. It started last Wednesday night with Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Thursday morning, my youngest (almost 11) was chosen to light a memorial candle at her school’s ceremony. She told the story of her grandparents, my parents, both Holocaust survivors from Romania. At the beginning of the school year, she and her teacher asked me to go up and recite the Jewish prayer for the dead. For weeks, Michaela asked me if I’m rehearsing the melody. She wanted me to get it right. I flew back from Canada, rehearsing on the plane. When I went to the school, my daughter greeted me in a black t-shirt emblazoned with a yellow Star of David, the kind Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. All the children in the school wore the yellow star. It was an act of defiance, of solidarity with the more than 1 million children who were murdered by the Nazis a mere 71 years ago. I unraveled. Seeing my daughter wearing the yellow star was too much. I couldn’t sing the melody for the memorial prayer. In fact, I barely got the words out.
Today, at 11:00am, the whole country stopped…buses, cars, trains and people. As the sirens wailed across the country, millions of people stood at attention for Memorial Day. This time, we honored the fighters who bought our freedom at the cost of their blood. I’ll mention just one – Cpl. Hadar Cohen, 19, killed this year on her first day of duty in Jerusalem at the Damascus Gate. She died shooting her assailant and defending her comrade, another female soldier serving alongside. This is our grief. The world will not grieve our fallen children. The Jew haters, the BDS crowd led by people such as Roger Waters, will continue to spread vicious lies about our country and our soldiers. Outside of Israel, it has become politically incorrect to praise our military. And yet, during all the ceremonies in schools, government buildings and cemeteries, I never once heard a hate laced speech. I never once heard someone talking about death to the enemy. What I heard was a celebration of the snuffed out lives of the fallen. These are our children and we know them for what they are – youngsters full of life and hope that have to look death in the eyes, so that we’ll never have to wear the yellow star again. I’m proud to say that when the sirens sounded, our second daughter, 19, stood by a military grave in uniform – a combat, officer cadet.
In a few hours, the mood will change from grieving to celebration as Israel commemorates Independence Day. Who would have thought 68 years ago that 800,000 people, most of them Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab lands, would number 8 ½ million today. Who would have thought that we would have; one of the strongest armies in the world, skyscrapers and highways and be one of the leading innovators in technology, medicine, agriculture and more. Who would have thought that we would build the only thriving democracy in the Middle East…the only place in this region of the world that Jews and Arabs can oppose the government and the military and live to tell about it on CNN.
It’s a hard transition from grief to partying, but it’s a psychological shift that we make. It’s our way of saying: This is our national, private time. We will survive. We will flourish. We will remember the fallen and celebrate life.