To Those Who Do Not Stand

In a few minutes, the siren marking Israel’s Memorial Day will again sound throughout this land. Most Israelis will stand for the sounding of the siren; sadly, some will not. I don’t care what their reason is; it offends me. They will talk of the Jewish way for mourning and perhaps, in this sense, they are right. When Jews mourn, there is a very detailed plan for how it is done. There is the 7 days of mourning immediately following the burial – which is done as quickly as possible, almost always within the first 24 hours.

Then there are the first 30 days, another level of mourning, less intense than the 7, more intense than the rest of the year. For the loss of a parent, the most natural of losses, we mourn for a year. We lose not only someone we loved, but part of the foundation that we have taken with us all of our lives.

And then…and then once a year, on the anniversary of their deaths, we mourn again – all very organized. Prayers to be said; candles to be lit. But these are the natural deaths and the natural way of mourning

Yom HaZikaron is about the unnatural – people who were taken from us not from illness, disease or acts of God such as storms, earthquakes, whatever. These were not accidents we could have avoided but the sudden taking. It is that split second you dread all your life – when you know there is no going back to what was, the family you were, the relationship you had.

So we have, perhaps, an unnatural way to mark this – and it is done as a nation. What harm does it cause to stand and listen, perhaps to silently whisper a prayer for someone lost to us? Because it isn’t said on the anniversary of the day the person died, does that mean it is not recognized by God?

You speak of Ahavat Yisrael – love of Israel…does it show love to hurt people who have already suffered a loss that no person should ever know?

You speak of the Jewish way, of unity? But what of the Jewish concepts of compassion and kindness? If you can bring comfort to someone who mourns, what matter that it is something that non-Jews do – a moment of silence, standing rather than…what? Sitting and reading Psalms (Tehillim)? Can’t you stand and say Tehillim?

If you sit during the siren in the next few minutes – shame on you. Shame on you for your hypocrisy in calling upon the secular to practice Ahavat Yisrael, for showing unity, for showing respect because you aren’t prepared to do the same.

Each time I hear the siren in a public place, a part of me watches. I see the Arabs who continue walking, continue driving. Their lack of respect is expected. Our mourning means nothing to them; only that they wish more of it upon us. They will not give our dead respect. Of course, if we were to treat their dead with a lack of respect, more bombs would go off, the UN would condemn us, and Kerry would say we were being unreasonable and should make it better by releasing more killers.

But that is them…and I speak to you. If you want the secular to respect our religious way of life; you have to give something – and that might be as simple as standing in respect for what they…what I…what we believe.

A mother should never have to bury her son; too many mothers in Israel have. If your standing for one moment brings her comfort – where is that against the Torah? Against Jewish law?

Your standing will bring her more comfort because she knows, as we all do, that this thing we do comes from outside our religion. So stand – stand because you live in this country and because in each case, soldier or terrorist victim, they died because they lived here too (or visited here, or went in the wrong restaurant, or took the wrong bus).

Stand because that is what Israel should do – stand together. You can say your prayers; I will. You can mourn on the day the person died; they certainly do that too…and every other day of the year.

But on this day, stand. Stand because it is the right thing to do. Stand because it brings comfort to those who deserve our compassion. Stand because if you sit, you are like the Arabs who fail to recognize all we have done to keep this land. Stand because if you sit, you have no right to live here.

Yes, I wrote that and my hand shakes as I do but yes…it’s true. This is our land, fought for and defended by those we mourn today. Stand.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.