Today when I heard the siren, I kept thinking about the videos I’ve seen of the sirens wailing at the beginning of the Yom Kippur war, and how those young men ran off to fight, maybe saying goodbye to their parents and wives, maybe not – but certainly not knowing whether they’d return. And I think that’s what makes Yom HaZikaron the most Zionist day of the year – even more than Yom HaAtzmaut. Yom HaAtzmaut can be celebrated and appreciated by all, regardless of their active involvement in the life of the Jewish State. But Yom HaZikaron is a pure sign of our desire to actively, voluntarily return to history – at all costs. These young men are not cantonists, they’re not drafted against their will by the Czar.
And so in a way every citizen of Israel participates daily in Yom HaZikaron, at least potentially. When a parent packs a sandwich in his child’s lunch bag, the lunch bag of his beloved child, he knows in his heart that someday he too might be required to answer Hineni – “I am here”, and make that ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice no angel will prevent. And yet he doesn’t step off the stage of history, he stays and builds and encourages others to come and do the same.
From an objective standpoint, it might seem insane. Why should we put ourselves in this place, with such risk and such pain? Only one word can possibly answer that question – love. Whether it’s love of God or love of country, it doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same. Without that love, without that willingness to sacrifice, there would be no Yom HaAtzmaut, no Israel. So thank you to all those soldiers and all those parents for allowing us to celebrate tomorrow – and every day.