I’ve just come back from a small pharmacy in Norristown, PA. I drove there to get my first, and now my second vaccination to protect myself and others from COVID-19. I may feel some side effects tomorrow, but I remain optimistic.
For the past year and a month, I have not been able to travel at all. Our apartment in Israel remains an elusive dream, out of reach because of all of the restrictions, precautions, trepidations and fears of this invisible and terrible enemy, the Coronavirus.
I miss my family in Israel, my children and my grandchildren. I miss my friends. However, thanks to 21st Century technology, we are connected as if we were truly next door, using zoom and whatsapp and plain old-fashioned phone calls.
I will not light a candle to remember this lost year, maybe even this lost year and a half. This lost time will be remembered as an inconvenience, time spent trying to maintain a physical distance from others, time spent trying to breathe while wearing a mask, and then a mask on top of another mask. I will not light a candle to remember the long three-and-a-half-hour drive to accompany my wife for her COVID-19 vaccination in State College, PA. It rained most of the way there, and then it rained almost constantly during the three-and-a-half-hour drive back home.
I will not light a candle to remember all of the inconsiderate people who refused to wear a mask, who wore the mask on their chins, or on their necks. While working part-time in the produce department of a local supermarket, I learned to sidestep these folks. Lucky for me that most of the curses I muttered under my breath were in languages they would never understand.
No, I will not light a memorial candle for these memories.
I lit a memorial candle tonight, because it is Yom HaZikaron, my Memorial Day, a day that I carry with me every day, every week, every month, every year. I carry Memorial Day on my right wrist. Seven black o-ring like bands, and five orange and black bands from the One Family Together organization, memorializing the memory of the victims of terror. The organization’s slogan is Overcoming Terror Together.
I was away from Israel during my childhood and youth, and when I returned as a young adult, I volunteered to serve in the IDF. I was honored to become a member of the Golani Brigade, and after my induction and basic training, I joined the 13th Battalion. I survived the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 and as a reward and as a military necessity the IDF assigned me to a newly formed tank battalion. My new brothers-in-arms, reservists like myself, were called up either to train or to patrol. The Sinai peninsula’s northern shore and later the Gaza Strip were all too familiar to me.
Because I knew the tragedies of lives lost, my service had all the more meaning to me. Our Golani platoon’s medic; two Golani brothers I had trained with; four members of the Kibbutz I had been a member of; my cousin, murdered at the Munich Olympic Games by Black September terrorists; a member of my former Kibbutz community, murdered by a fifteen-year-old seeking to join Hamas; my two best friends, murdered by Hamas terrorists, butchered in cold blood.
Yes, I carry Yom HaZikaron on my right wrist, every day, all the time.
While living in relative isolation in the States, I’ve also had time to contemplate and reflect upon the changes that have taken place right here, in my own “back yard” so to speak. A growing polarization among the many millions of Americans living in this vast and beautiful land has politicized the very thing that could have saved so many thousands of lives. A former president, loved and admired by some in Israel (and of course in the US), allowed the sinister forces and ideologies of racism and hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism to crawl out from under the rocks where they had been hiding. Armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol and showed the entire world just how fragile democracy can be, and how very fragile it continues to be.
I read in the Israeli press that sadly there is a lot of polarization in Israel as well, and that, THAT breaks my heart.
I will not light a candle to remember January 6th, 2021. I will not light a candle to remember the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, VA in August of 2017. I will not light a candle to remember the stark contrast of the presidency of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and the one that followed him, twice impeached.
No, I light a memorial candle to remember lives cut short either during war or during murderous moments of terrorism, lives that epitomized the beauty and valor and dedication to a promise to make Israel the land for ALL Jews. The home for those who believe in our inalienable right to live in our own nation, our own soil, our land since time immemorial.
I knew them personally. I will remember them tonight and tomorrow, and I will celebrate our Independence Day on the day after Memorial Day in their memory. I will try to make them proud.