Think Memorial Day in America and the mind immediately conjures up hamburgers on the grill and a long weekend. Israel, however, commemorates Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance, with solemnity, reflection and mourning.
Like most Americans, I come from a family which has served our country in the military. Ranging from World War 2 to the present, my family has heeded the call. It’s the least we could do. And we did it with the same levels of obligation and fear as every other family. I remember all of us, Aunt Ceil, Zayda, sisters, brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces, at the airport, welcoming home Uncle Bennie from the Phillipines in the 1940s when I was a young child. That was a celebration which could have turned out differently. Fortunately he went on to become a business tycoon, father, and a very old man.
Cousin Marvin served as a marine during the Korean War. I baked him chocolate chip cookies and sent them through the mails to wherever he was. He sent me a note telling me they were delicious. I cherished that note.
And there were others. Of course. No family was unscathed and ours was typical. America was good to us and dodging the draft was not part of our gratitude.
So many American military families have sustained terrible losses. Memorial Day needs to be a different kind of holiday. It needs to be a Holy Day. It’s not the beginning of summer or a long weekend at the shore. Memorial Day needs to be a profoundly sad day where we honor young lives that ended tragically, heroically, and abruptly, in service of the greatest good. As in Israel.
Like most Israelis, I come from a family which has served our country in the military. Ranging from the War of Independence in 1948 to the present, my family has heeded the call. It’s the least we could do. And we did it, and do it, with the same levels of obligation and fear as every other family.
But, in Israel, Memorial Day, Yom Ha Zikaron, is a painful expression of loss and sorrow. It’s not a celebration. It’s a moving tribute to those who have been lost and will never fulfill their parent’s dreams. It’s not a day for cookouts. It’s a day to cherish and honor the heroes who create a safe haven for all of us.. And that’s how it should be.
May the sacrifices of those who died for our freedom in America and in Israel be remembered, and may they rest in peace.