Tonight, I feel my daughter’s warm weight in my arms; my husband by my side holding our baby in his, as a siren pierces the air. Its shrill cry breaks the stillness, ripping across the night sky like a million shooting stars, but with no accompanying glow.
On this eve of Israel’s Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), we remember the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. We light a candle and pray for the souls of the departed, people like us who so desperately fought to live in this Land- and died trying.
As I stand, frozen in time, I can’t help but think of the phrase in Sefer Melachim (The Book of Kings) I, 19: 12, “Kol Dmama Daka” — “The voice of a thin silence”. The actual verse in Kings describes Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet)’s dramatic meeting with God- the sounds, and the silence which ensued. The verse relates that Eliyahu stood on a mountain before G-d and felt a mighty wind blow past, but He was not in the wind. The text continues, “And after the wind an earthquake- not in the earthquake was the Lord.” After the earthquake came fire, but Hashem was not in the fire, and after the fire — a still small sound, a “kol dmama daka”.
It seems almost oxymoronic — this still, small sound. The “Sound of Silence,” if you will. But it’s a sound used to describe G-d Himself, so I suppose there are allowances for defying nature.
We don’t see G-d in the chaos; in the gusty winds of horror and earthquakes as they uproot everything stable in our lives. He is neither seen in the raging fires of destruction. But in the aftermath, after all the holy martyrs are laid to rest, we hear the Voice of G-d. It is a still, small sound, and we stand in awe, reveling in the enormity. It scares the living daylights out of us, but we are somehow drawn to, and comforted by, this shrill utterance.
Unfortunately, sirens are not a once-yearly occurrence, hence my opportunity to meditate on their sound, and significance. Just a few days ago, I stood beside my car, entranced by the same penetrating sound, as my People commemorated Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). In that moment, I imagined the siren encompassing the cries of six-million Jews, annihilated in cold blood. For the longest, and also shortest two minutes of my day, I solemnly reflected on those who perished, as the sharp cry of the siren gave voice to those who never had a voice.
And then, there are the more urgent sirens. Not the placid sirens of memorial, but the sirens of tragedy, and death. The sirens which herald yet another terrorist attack, yet another river of blood soaking my beautiful country’s already saturated soil. Yet another siren telling of the loss of a loved one, of families violently displaced.
I stand in the warm wind, eternally grateful for my family by my side, as I allow the siren’s wail to wash over me.
I frantically send up a prayer. This minute is too short. Names and faces flit through my mind; newspaper clippings, TV reports, tiny body bags, friends whose lives are forever ruined. Ezra. Michael. Koby. Aryeh. Gilad. Eyal. Naftali. Dafna. Shalhevet. The names don’t stop. How can they, when the toll is at 23,477 victims? I try to cram every single victim of terror and war into one introspective moment. It is my duty, as one who lives, to pay tribute — to show that they weren’t murdered in vain. I fervently pray for their families, for at least one more laugh to cross their loved ones’ lips.
I give my daughter a final squeeze, as the siren begins to wane. As if a “play” button was pressed, life resumes. I go back to my computer to answer emails (and write this). My children return to their beds. Only a lone memorial candle flickers silently on the counter, testimony to the eternal souls we remember tonight.