It is Yom HaZikaron and yet this morning I was standing next to Almoni.
It is the day to remember and I was standing next to a man named, Anonymous.
He was killed near Jerusalem on the fourth of the month of Nissan 1947. That is all that remains of his life. No one was next to his grave. No mother to tend to the flowers. No father to wipe away his tears. Unlike the grave next to his, Almoni didn’t even have a sister weeping for the years they missed together and the laughs that were forever gone. He had no one because he was killed nameless.
Almoni could have been fresh off the boat from the bloodshed of Europe. The sole survivor of his family. He could have been a fourth generation sabra. Following his father’s footsteps. He could have been a doctor, a lawyer, even a schoolchild.
But we will never know.
All that remains certain is his day of death.
I stood by Almoni. I said psalms by Almoni. Everyone deserves a name, but Almoni to me is a name. Almoni to me is a hero.
Another name also struck me in the maze of names and graves in har Herzl. Noam Grossman. A normal sounding name. The name of a twenty year old.
He was killed on March 4, 1948. Bnei Akiva created a pamphlet of Noam’s life and untimely death. Skimming through it there were bits I didn’t understand but one simple line struck me over and over again. He was American.
He was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. After fighting in World War Two he decided it was his duty to move to Palestine. He enlisted in Tzahal, and the rest is history.
But to me this isn’t history. His story is something I and thousands of others are going through today. I may not be his family, but I felt very connected to him. Noam was like I and so many others. I identify with his life changes. However, his bravery and strength is inspiring and it goes without saying I am forever in awe of his ultimate sacrifice.
On Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day an American oleh shared the day with a very heroic American oleh.
On Yom HaZikaron, I, an oleh chadasha with no family to mourn for, mourned. I reminisced the lives of 25,000 fallen soldiers and victims of terror who I have never met, but feel like I have known my entire life. Together, all citizens of Israel quietly cried, as the sirens wailed, just like the last cries of our brothers and sisters. It is an honor to be a citizen of a country that knows the true meaning of Memorial Day.