The Agony and the Ecstasy: From Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’Azmaut

I attended my first funeral when I was nineteen.  The theme colour was purple.  On that beautiful spring day hundreds of mourners from my Givati unit were gathered to pay our final respects to one of our brothers-in-arms.  After the appropriate prayers and psalms were recited, the silence of the military cemetery was shattered by the report of the honour guard, followed by the cries of family and friends as the flag-draped coffin was gently lowered into the soil of Israel.

All these years later the memory that sticks with me of that awful day is that everyone, from the Brigade Commander to the family members, were united in the contradictory emotions of numbing grief tinged with tremendous pride for our friend who was killed in action defending our homeland so we could live in freedom.

Band of Miluimniks

“Band of Brothers on Milluim” (photo (c) Tuvia Book, 2013)

It is no coincidence that Yom HaZikaron immediately precedes Yom Ha’Atzmaut, for without the former the latter would not be possible.  The “hope of two thousand years to be a free people in our land” (Hatikva) only became a reality when we Jews took matters into our own hands.  It is not enough to yearn, weep, hope and pray as the Jews did for almost two stateless millennia.  One has to stand up and do what is right, to “walk the walk.”

One of the big lessons I and my fellow soldiers learned in my regular service and subsequent years of reserve duty was drummed into us during our basic training.  After running around for hours in the sun, we were given a few minutes to rest in our tent.  We all flopped gratefully onto our camp beds.  After a few seconds the sergeant stood outside and asked for a volunteer.  Initially we all said:  “Nu, somebody go out.”  When there was no volunteer immediately forthcoming the sergeant shouted, “everybody out!”  This scenario repeated itself until the realisation dawns that sometimes you must step forward to be the “someone” who volunteers.  In the words of Gandhi: “We must become the change we wish to see.”

This year as we commemorate Yom haZikaron and celebrate our sixty-fifth Yom Ha’Atzmaut let us be grateful for those boys and girls who give the best years of their life, and sometimes their very lives themselves, and are the people who step forward to keep our Zionist dream alive.

I will devote all of my strength, and even sacrifice my life, in the defense of the homeland and the freedom of Israel.

 

– from the Induction Oath to the IDF

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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