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Day 222 of the war: From Holocaust Memorial Day to Independence Day, part 2

The beginning of the Joint Ceremony, my photo
The beginning of the Joint Ceremony, my photo

Between Holocaust Memorial Day and Independence Day, we attended the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Service several days before the actual date. It was the 19th time the ceremony took place, but unlike previous years when it was a public event with thousands of attendees, this year it was a small and intimate event by personal invitation only. It was held and recorded several days earlier in a guarded location somewhere between Haifa and Tel Aviv. We found out the exact location only a day prior to the ceremony and were asked not to reveal it.

The ceremony itself was especially somber this year, overshadowed by the massacre of October 7th and the ensuing war in Gaza. We were asked to wait until after the broadcast of the ceremony on May 12th, on the eve of Memorial Day to speak, write or post pictures pertaining to the event. This year, there were no Palestinians on stage or in the audience, but they sent pre-recorded videos with their speeches. One of the most moving speeches was given by a bereaved Israeli mother who lost her son at the Nova festival on October 7th. She  said that she had always avoided politics and hoped that by doing good and being neighborly, she could contribute to the world’s goodness. Unfortunately, she was proved wrong. This ceremony marked one of her first steps toward activism.

Although it was a small and sad ceremony, the organizers from The Family Circle and Combatants for Peace reminded us that they were proud to have us at the ceremony, as we were all people who had not lost hope of living in peace and equality with our Palestinian neighbors.

Yesterday, I wrote about Sigalit Hillel, Uri’s mother, who impressed me at the Kaplan demonstration. There were several other powerful speakers on stage who motivated the audience. I would like to mention Noga Friedman, whose partner Ido, a veteran fighter in a special IDF unit was killed on October 7th. Noga spoke about the famous cultural Yiddish/Israeli concept of “frier” (sucker), which relates to reference anxiety. Israelis often compare themselves to others and dread being the ones who pay more, work more, and enjoy less. Noga said that Ido did not mind being a frier; quite the opposite. He was even proud to do more than others. For him, being a frier was a preferred masculine position that gave him the liberty to act according to his values, not out of ego or a desire for control. His conduct was the exact opposite of how this government conducts itself. I believe that with the protest against the judicial overhaul, we discovered many leaders like Ido who simply do their best without comparing themselves or believing they deserve better than their fellow men.

This was a very sad Independence Day. None of my friends watched the state event of the traditional Torch Lighting Ceremony at Har Herzl, which this government organized and prerecorded to avoid public protests. However, we all watched the alternative public ceremony of turning off the torches, organized by the forum of the families of the hostages. It was heartbreaking.

We decided to have people over for dinner on the eve of Independence Day. We found some solace in being together around the table, engaging in conversation with good friends, and hoping for better times.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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