Tonight begins Yom HaZikaron, the day dedicated to reminding ourselves that Jewish redemption after nineteen hundred years has not come without a price. As the day draws near, I find myself reflecting on who and what I will remember during this holiday, something I didn’t get to do last year.
I will think back upon the three brothers I lost this summer, for whom I prayed and wept and screamed and longed and hoped that they would come home. I will remember the huge prayer rallies, the massive cries for mercy. And I will remember ripping my shirt when I found out they’d been gone the whole time, that some animals had done this to them in the name of God or uprising or freeing friends from prison or whatever reasons they have. And I will remember the tremendous pride in watching the crowds sing at their funeral, and thinking that such a tragedy, three young boys who didn’t get to fully live, were able to unite an entire country.
I will remember Evyatar. I will remember wondering who he was, whether I had ever met him. I remember sitting in a meeting at Camp Stone when I found out, and realized that suddenly the war in Gaza, so distant before, was now so personal, so close to home. I will remember the Rosh Yeshiva talking about him, his friends talking about him, everyone talking about Tourgie, as they called him. I will remember that some things have the ability to make us feel like siblings with strangers.
I will contemplate how much good could have come from Chaya Ziesl Baron, if a terrorist hadn’t decided that a three-month-old was a danger to his people’s freedom and beliefs. If that little girl had only been allowed to grow into her full potential, instead of getting killed by his car. How many generations, children, ideas, worlds have been destroyed through her loss?
I will pray in memory of those killed while praying in synagogue, while studying holy texts. I will also think about the man who tried to rescue those that he could, Zidan Saif, a man dedicated to saving the lives of members of the nation who gave his people shelter in their land. I will think about his ideals, his appreciation of our society, and his willingness to put his life on the line for what was right. I will think about all the other Druzim who lost their lives in all our wars, fighting alongside us as the brother nation they are to us.
And I will thank God, thank Him for all of His Kindness, for were I not standing in the right place at the right time, I could have been among this list. If at around noontime on November 5, I had stayed walking on the tracks as I did sometimes, I could have been hit by the terrorist who I watched run through the lamppost and go on to cause the deaths of three people on those tracks and around the station. I could have been one of those I saw lying, bleeding on the ground amid the rubble and strewn groceries. And all thanks to Him, I am commemorating Yom HaZikaron as a survivor, when I could have been one of the victims, God Forbid.
In the hours after that attack, I found myself looking for the meaning in having witnessed this tragic crime. I can only think back to the call I received from my father that night, telling me that this was part of life in Israel, unfortunately. And he is right. This is part of our life here, as much as we hope everyday that it will stop being an issue very soon. But that doesn’t make us want to leave this little patch of ground here, it doesn’t cause us to long for something else, and it doesn’t cause us to lose our resolve. These people have lost their lives as part of the struggle over our Home, and their loss, whose reason we will never truly know until the End of Days, must give us the resolve to hold onto Home. For their sake. For the sake of all they could have accomplished, for the sake of all they did accomplish, and for the sake of our ability to keep accomplishing here in our Homeland.
For those who have been lost, we must recommit ourselves to this place and to the belief that terror and evil will never wrest our grip from this Home of ours. Not only will they not break our connection to our Land, they will also not break our spirit of commitment to one another. With their memories in our minds, we must strive on together, unified and strong as one. We will be strong, we will endure, and when the siren sounds in a couple hours and in the morning, we will remember those we have lost, and that we must carry on their legacy as part of our own.