I stand next to a man at the Memorial Day service. His hair is white, his face is brown and wrinkled. His blue polo shirt is neatly tucked into his jeans. He looks like so many Israeli men that you pass in the street every day.
As the ceremony begins and the sirens sound, we all stand in silence, hanging our heads, closing our eyes and we remember.
The soldiers we have lost, the people who have been murdered on the streets, in their homes, in their cars. We clear our minds of anything else that has gone before, we open up our hearts and we grieve. 24,213 fallen soldiers and 4,255 victims of terror attacks.
Just in our little town of Raanana there are 265 names to read. And we listen to every single one as their photos flash up on the huge screen in front of us.
265 lives cut short. 265 families who have never, will never close the gaping holes in their hearts.
The man in the blue polo shirt keeps his eyes closed and weeps silently next to me.
“Who has he lost?” I think. “What horrors has he seen?” “What trauma does he carry around with him every day?”
I return to thinking about the people we have lost, the huge price we have paid and continue to pay in order to fulfill the dream that is embedded in our DNA: to be a free nation living in peace in our homeland.
I offer up a humble prayer:
“Let me live my life every day, deserving of the sacrifices, of the huge, unthinkable price that has been paid in order for me to be here. And one day, let me believe the line from our national anthem that always sticks in my throat “To be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
The ceremony ends.
The crowd begins to disperse.
I hold onto my son’s hand extra tight.
The man in the blue polo shirt wipes his eyes and answers his phone. “Yes, yes, I’m okay,” he says.