Meticulously rolling sushi with my British friends in my dorm room in Yavneh, Israel, I was, abruptly stopped by a screaming siren. I quickly jumped up and started to sprint to the bomb shelter. Before I made too much of a fool of myself, one of my British friends reminded me that this siren was not a missile siren, but the siren that marks the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day in Israel.
Here Memorial Day is not just a day off from school and an excuse to make a barbeque, or perhaps in the afternoon visit one of our grandparents who served in Vietnam. Here Memorial Day is a serious day where everyone, no matter what their political or religious affiliation is, knows someone who was either murdered in war or in a terrorist attack, and mourns their lost. Here our heroes are not those of comic books or movies, but of sheer will and strength who risk their lives in order to defend our land, democracy, and families.
Currently I’m in my second year at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavnah (KBY), which was the first hesder Yeshiva (hesder means that the students at this Yeshiva both learn and serve in the army). Memorial Day has so much more meaning when you know personally those who put their lives at risk so that you can live in your country. This morning we had busses go to Har Herzl (the military cemetery in Jerusalem) for yeshiva students to visit the graves of fellow KBY students who sacrificed their lives for our country. Later on in the day we gathered in front of the memorial wall in our library which has the pictures and names of all 26 KBY students who were murdered in war or by terrorists. All of today’s learning and prayers have been inspired and devoted to all who have sacrificed their lives.
An important thing to remember on Yom HaZikaron is not only those who have died defending our country, but all of those who continue to live their lives fighting for our country. Whether through intelligence, battle, or even living in places which otherwise would be occupied by Arabs, in order that we have Israel, all these people deserve a big Toda Raba and Shkoyach for all that they have done and continue to do. Living in America, we almost forget about our sisters and brothers in Israel, and sometimes get a bit too comfortable living in an alien country, a place which isn’t home.
Yom HaShoa was only last week, so we must also remember the amazing turn of tables, from ashes to victory; Israel is a gift to us. We received this beautiful gift because of our great devotion and will power. But with great power comes great responsibility. Thusly we must not take this gift for granted.
Not taking for granted what one has, and to be inspired to make tremendous sacrifice for what one loves can both be learned from Memorial Day in Israel. Just like sushi, Israel is hard to make and may fall apart at times, but after all the trouble it’s worth it.