Thoughts on Yom Hazikaron

It is Yom Hazikaron. Last night on our yishuv, we held a moving ceremony, which was so meaningful for me. It was an honor and a privilege to have been on the team that organized it. On our yishuv, we have 14 families who carry the memory of fallen with them, not one day a year, but every day. I personally knew four of them. What makes our ceremony so special, is that we have chosen to celebrate their lives, loves and passions, along with the acknowledgement of their sacrifice. We try to learn about them and remember them as people, not a statistic. Each year, we choose three of the fallen and tell a little bit about them. Last night, we read the last letter one of our fallen had written to his family on the eve of the Six Day war. For another, we showed slides of his amazing cartoons, which he loved to draw. Then, there was Ilan. I knew Ilan. When we came on Aliya, he was our madrich for the tiyul we took to the Sinai for a week. He was a founding member of my kibbutz, a smiling, intense, inspirational and influential person, who always led by personal example. One of his garin members wrote a letter to commemorate twenty years since his death. I had tears in my eyes, literally.

I have a good friend at work, who lost her son in Operation Protective Edge. When tensions were rising, I spoke to her on the phone. We were speaking about our sons in the army. I told her that my son’s unit had been put on alert footing – and how worried I was. She said that her son, who was a Company Commander of an elite scout unit would be one of the first ground troops to go in to Gaza. Two days later, he was killed when his APC was hit by an anti-tank missile. I knew him! I had been a guest at his wedding. Today, I find myself thinking about her and her family – her husband and his two sisters, and his widow and two children, and what they must be feeling and thinking, today and also on the anniversary of his death. Tzvika’s widow has since remarried and gave birth to a son, two days ago. I found myself thinking about what she must be feeling today? And, how complicated it must be for my friend, to have two grandchildren by her son z”l, and now her daughter in law has a different husband and another child. What emotions must be swirling around inside her? Joy? Jealousy? Does she now feel awkwardness, when she goes to see her grandchildren, who remind her so much of her son? She copes, because she is amazingly strong, but WOW!

My mind wanders…

On Yom Hazikaron, we bow our heads in respect.

On Yom Hazikaron we bow our heads and stand in silence, dom, to honor our fallen. And today I am also thinking about our injured, and their sacrifice. Those that went to war, and came back, irrevocably changed. Some broken, some scarred. Some grotesquely distorted and some apparently unchanged on the outside, but damaged inside. Some, unable to live independently, trapped inside their mangled bodies, and some trapped inside their minds, forced to relive the hell and fear, constantly. Some, with dreams of fulfilled love, and having a family of their own, shattered and impossible. But, all forced to live a life different to what they imagined and wanted for themselves. We do not have a day to acknowledge their contribution and we should. Have we forgotten what they too have given to the country? Too often we are caught up in our pity for them, when what they deserve from us, is respect and gratitude, no less than our fallen receive.

Tzahal Disabled Organization emblem

We remember the heroism of Yoni Netanyahu at Entebbe, but five other commandos were wounded, one confined to a wheelchair for life. Does anyone remember his name? Some have come to prominence, despite their injuries. Journalist Amnon Abramovitch is one such individual. But, so many are ignored or forgotten, dismissed by us because of the awkwardness we feel, seeing the disabilities they now live with. I hope we can do better and save a moment to acknowledge their sacrifice. Let us take pride also in our injured and what they have given for our country.

On Yom Hazikaron, we bow our heads in remembrance and stand in silence, to honor our fallen. In their death, they bequeathed us life. That is not a glib platitude. It is a grim reality, which we must recognize and appreciate. Israel’s complex reality is such, that it is the truth. It makes Yom Haatzmaut all the more significant. Nizkor et kulam.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud to a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.
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