Every year, more and more people ask the same question.
Why is Yom HaZikaron set on the day before Yom HaAtzmaut? How can we be properly happy tonight when we have spent all of today in mourning?
Unfortunately, every year, there are more and more people, new Olim as well as veteran Israelis , who have lost someone dear (whether they knew him personally or not). Every year, there are more people to whom this question is relevant, more people who truly feel pain on Yom HaZikaron.
The answer is painful. The answer is all about us and our uniqueness.
Despite the inflatable hammers and “snow” spray, Yom HaAtzmaut is not just a day to party. Yom Hatzmaut is about gratitude. “Yemei Hallel V’Hodaya,” is how the Chief rabbinate declared Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalaim.
It is important to note that the official Yom Yerushalaim ceremony takes place on Giv’at HaTahmoshet, site of the worst battle for the liberation of our holy city.
We aren’t celebrating our independence tonight and tomorrow, we are expressing thanks. Just as eating the marror is a vital part of the Seder , because we MUST remember how horrible the Egyptian slavery and mass murder was, in order to appreciate freedom from Human bondage, on that very night that we are kings, so too we are obligated tonight to still taste the bitter herbs of anti-Semitism and the still-continuing war the nations around us have declared upon our nation.
When we say Hallel tonight and tomorrow, we are thanking Hashem for all that we have here, knowing full well that, but for His MIracles, we would only have Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron.
By the laws of nature, the Jewish people should not have survived the holocaust; how much more so the Jewish religion should have been eradicated.
By the laws of nature, the local Arab attacks (with assistance from the British Mandatory guards), should have succeeded in quashing any desire for independent rule over this difficult land (just as they have recently caused many Jews to feel that Yehuda and the Shomron are simply not worth the blood and tears).
By the laws of nature, the organized armies of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan (with supplies from Kuwait, Iran, and more) should have taken no time at all to finish off 600,000 Jews, weakened from sieges and from the Holocaust.
At the time that Israel declared independence, one out of every 20 Jews living here the time was a soldier. The youngest Jews to die while actively defending their homes were between 9 and 14 years old. Our only tank at the time of the invasion did not have a gun. We had no war planes.
We lost fully one percent of Israel’s Jews in that war. And today, as before our independence, there are still local Arabs who do not accept our right to be here, who continue to fight and attempt to chase us away. There are still those who take the initiative to run over Jewish pedestrians.
On Yom HaAtzmaut we say Thank You, to HaShem who breaks His Own rules of nature in order to ensure our survival, as well as to those whose deaths or injuries, are the silver platter upon which HaShem gave us this Land and our freedom. Tonight, we do not just celebrate; we are still crying. Our happiness is marred by the sacrifices that our brothers and sisters have made and continue to make, so that the Jewish people can continue to rebuild our nation.
My personal prayer is that we use today’s tears to remind us that we must work in order to deserve our brethren’s sacrifice. May we recognize that it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that their losses of limb and life were not in vain; that, from the Dry Bones of our nation 67 years ago, we must strive to create a living and breathing, honest, decent, loving, kind and considerate society – a model to the nations of what humans can and should be. And, by keeping the two days attached, I hope that we remember to fulfill this mission in good times as well as we remember it in hard times.