For my brothers

We talk numbers all the time. Polls, statistics, taxes… Yet, there comes a point when our human mind can no longer grasp the actuality of a number- 23 million to 24 million doesn’t sound like a big difference.

A country at the young ripe age of 67 has lost 23,320 of our young men fighting for our right to exist even though we have already been granted that right.

I think about the number. 23,320… How many families would that be? How many writers? Professors? Artists? It is no 6 million, thank G-d, but it is not a number one can grasp, because it doesn’t stop at 23,320.

Mothers and fathers childless, wives widowed, children orphaned, brothers and sisters left without their role model, girls and boys left without their best friend.

My mind keeps bringing me back to this past summer- Operation Protective Edge. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and friends lost their loved ones. 67 of them. Every single one of them walked in, determined and fearless with passion and love blazing in their hearts. They felt that if they were doing something to help our land, our people, it didn’t matter what would happened to them. They felt they would have what to be happy about, knowing that we will one day walk the streets safely and happily with pride, with appreciation and love for the the miracle we call home. And that’s exactly what they expect of us.

Unfortunately, it is not just our beloved soldiers we have to honor, because it is not just the men of war who are dying for our homeland. The beautiful thing about our home is that we are all heroes. Every step taken here, as a resident of this beautiful blessed land, is our fight as well. Every resident understands that by living here, they are putting their life at risk. Yet, they do not, under any circumstances, give up when the going gets tough. Every single bereaved mother found a way to continue living a happy life while also giving off her strength to the whole nation. We stand strong in what we believe in and do not give up.

No mother should have to bury her child! No child should have to go the rest of her life knowing her baby brothers and parents will no longer be with her. Just because they lived in their own home. We build because we have the right to. Because it is home. I have the right to walk around my own home with pride; without fear of my life. All those boys and men had the right as well… And so they fought to show the world what is just! But they died fighting for the right they already had.

And I sit here, crying still mourning over all of my brothers that I have lost. All of the heroes this world is now lacking. I think about all the young boys and girls who no longer have the opportunity to go home and tell their families they love them. As I got into bed last night, and as I have my coffee this morning, all I can think is its not fair! Why don’t they get to go home to their clean comfy beds and awake to a lovely breakfast with their beloved families? All because they believe in our right to live comfortably and happily in our own home.

They gave so much to us. They gave their fight so that we don’t have to physically fight ourselves, they gave 100% of themselves to protect us… They gave up their lives for us… They died so that we can live. They fought and died for us to live happily, but expected nothing in return. All they wanted is for us to live safely and happily.

They gave up their lives wanting nothing in return, but why do we not question what we can give back, regardless? They deserve something… But what can we possibly give to our brothers when they deserve 10x more than we can ever give, when they have given us their lives?

I question why Yom Ha’atzmaut comes right after Yom Hazikaron. How are we expected to dance, sing, laugh and be happy after we have just been crying and feeling this intense feeling of loss as we mourned over more than 23,320 members of our family.

I think Yom Haatzmaut is the only thing that comes even remotely close to what they deserve in return for all they have done for us. It’s not about forgetting what we have been mourning the day prior. We can never forget. We carry this loss with us everywhere we go, every single day. Its about taking it with us, and being strong regardless. We need to be strong, just like they were, pick ourselves up and enjoy, rejoice, be happy, live and love in the land they fought for. We need to finish what they couldn’t. They began the fight hoping to experience the aftermath. They hoped to join their family as we rejoice in the miracle of our land. They started, but dont get the opportunity to witness the miraculous and beautiful ending.

It is, therefore, up to us to finish what they have started and let them experience the miraculous ending of their fight through us and our happiness. We have to live here, build here- build ourselves, our nation, our homes- and be happy. Here. They didn’t fight for us to live in the states. They fought for US to have THIS land. That is the only way to give back. And how could we not?

My dear brothers, my heart aches today as I think of all of you I didn’t even get the opportunity to know personally. But you are my brothers and I feel the pain regardless of knowing you on a personal level. All I can say is thank you for fighting for me. For our home.Thank you for teaching me what real strength and heroism is. Thank you. I hope we can all make you proud. We will celebrate on Thursday! We will celebrate with life, love and happiness! You will be here with us. We do not forget and move on. You are with us for the rest of our lives as we live happily at home. We miss you.

About the Author
Maya Neiman is currently a student at Midreshet Harova (girls seminary in The Old City). She plans on living in Israel and, next year, will start her sheirut leumi service. and will then attend Bar Ilan University.