If you only saw a snapshot of the NCSY Israel Yom Hazikaron ceremony, it would appear relatively standard; a number of speakers, some videos, and prayers. But if you tuned in for just a couple of minutes to hear what our teens had to say, to listen to their voices, you would easily recognize the uniqueness of the event. Behind the words of our teens was deep meaning and connection. Because beyond their windows was the national siren and beneath their feet was, or rather is, the Land of Israel. Even in a virtual reality, the physical world for these teens is that they are in their homeland. And that fact, while not readily apparent from a computer screen, transforms the virtual experience to one that is filled with greater meaning.
For the teens of NCSY Israel, Yom Hazikaron is not foreign or distant, as it may be for those living abroad. It is a point of connection to their home in the most authentic of ways. It is embracing the nation, the people, and the land just outside their front doors. It is a day that expresses a strong sense of appreciation for the soldiers who fought for this reality; soldiers who our teens can relate to as many will themselves draft into the IDF.
Over 50 people tuned in to the event entitled “Yom Hazikaron: Telling Their Stories” which consisted of NCSY Israel teens sharing the stories of specific fallen soldiers and victims of terror whom they personally connect to. A teen from the Gush Etzion chapter spoke about Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the three teenage boys who were kidnapped in Gush Eztion and murdered during the summer of 2014. Another teen spoke about Ezra Schwartz who babysat her when she was young. Ezra was killed in a terrorist attack in 2015 during a gap year of learning in Israel. Others told the stories of soldiers such as Roi Klein and Yosef Goodman who are sources of inspiration for our teens. When given an outlet, a platform, a microphone, teens who can just as easily be carefree and rambunctious came alive with passion and maturity.
Yet, what I found most inspiring were those who spoke about family members. One teen, Ariel told the story of his mother’s uncle, Shlomo. Ariel related the incredible journey of Shlomo’s family, crossing the border by foot from Syria into Israel. He told us how in the IDF Shlomo was nicknamed Dubi, ‘teddy bear’ in Hebrew, since he was loved by all. And he told us the story of Shlomo’s death; how Shlomo was stabbed while visiting regular clients of his business in Gaza, and no one came to his aid.
Another teen, Yacov spoke about his namesake. Yacov was given the middle name Amichai after his grandmother’s first cousin. Amichai came to Israel with his family before the establishment of the State. In 1940 he decided to join the British Royal Air Force because he wanted to fight the Nazis and defend the Jewish people. Amichai died in 1943 when his jet was shot down by German Nazi ships off the coast of Greece. His remains were only found seven years later and brought back to be buried in Israel. In Yacov’s words:
“Amichai was killed while fighting the Nazis in World War II so he never got to see the establishment of the State of Israel. Yet, he’s still considered an IDF casualty. In the 70’s it was declared that soldiers who died in the fight for the Jewish people and for the establishment of the State of Israel before 1948, would also be recognized by the IDF. And Amichai was a Zionist Jew who was killed fighting the Nazis.”
Yacov ended with the hope that he can carry on Amichai’s mission and legacy in fighting for our people and our country. After all, he stated, “that really is what the name means; Amichai means my people live on.”
Those closing words struck me. How better to describe this event. How better to describe NCSY Israel than through ‘amichai’ – my people live on. As teen olim gathered to speak and hear about Israel’s past, about her heroes and history, I couldn’t help but think about our future. These faces, these teens who are now growing and thriving and contributing to the Land of Israel. These are the young adults who I am sure will become Israel’s future heroes and role models. Amichai: my people live on.