Is It My Right to Grieve on Yom Hazikaron?

I made aliyah five years ago. Five years ago I boarded a plane, waved goodbye to many home comforts, and decided to make the land of falafel and horn honking my home. There are many days when I feel like a true Israeli — like when I leave my trolley in line at Shufersal and make a mad dash to grab a few more items while securing my place in the line, or when, at the slightest hint of summer ending, I race to bring back out my leather jacket and winter clothes in anticipation of some relief from the heat. And of course there are many days when I feel like an outsider – basically any time when fluent Hebrew or erratic driving is required!

But there is one day of the year when I feel like a true Israeli and an outsider simultaneously. That day is Yom Hazikaron. Standing at the memorial service at Kikar Rabin each year is so powerful and emotional. The tension and sadness in the air rips through your body. When we stand in unison singing the Hatikvah together, I feel so at one with the people around me. So comfortable that this is my people, my home. Yet, at the same time, I have a constant feeling of being an intruder. When my tears flow along with those sitting alongside me, I can’t help but feel ashamed. I (thankfully) don’t know a single soldier that has died in combat. I therefore feel a little uncomfortable. Somewhat of an impostor. Why am I crying? Am I entitled to grieve like they do?  Every year I ask myself this question and grapple with the answer. And each year I come to the conclusion that yes, I am entitled to my sadness. It is definitely not the same raw grief that the people who lost loved ones feel, but it is real nonetheless. It is a sadness for the individuals and their lives cut short. For their families who didn’t see their husband, father, daughter, or sister grow old, and a sadness for our people. The Jewish people. That we are still having to mourn. That our small country still has to fight, to sacrifice its citizens in order that the majority of us can live in safety. For all of that, I grieve.

This year, Olami, in partnership with The Afikim Foundation and The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, has launched Yizkereim – Honor Israel’s Fallen. It’s a chance for people like me, who don’t have a specific soldier to honor, to get to know Israel’s fallen heroes (23,632 since the creation of the state of Israel 70 years ago) through the website www.honorisraelsfallen.com and to do a mitzvah, something positive, in their honor. It’s a chance for us to give our condolences and messages of support to the family they left behind. It’s our chance to pay tribute to their memory and to thank them for the sacrifice they made so that we can celebrate 70 years of having our own state. And it’s a chance for those who did know someone to honor their lives publicly, and have this memorialized in the digital file of all actions that will be kept at Mount Herzl, the site of Israel’s national cemetery and other memorial and educational facilities.

This year, I will still feel torn. But my tears will fall and my voice will proudly ring out knowing that yes I am Israeli, no I did not know anyone, but, yes, I now feel like I do and I am entitled to my grief.

About the Author
Michal made aliyah five years ago from Manchester, England and is Director of Marketing for Olami, a global community of organizations committed to inspiring young adults to achieve their Jewish greatness through Jewish learning and practice.
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