As a fifth-grader in America, there was a poster hanging in our classroom.
Hundreds of faces – happy, smiling, staring down.
“Israeli Victims Of Terror Since September 2000”, the sign proclaimed.
There were 300.
We didn’t know much, only that innocent people – some even our own ages – had their lives cut short by the sharp knife of terrorism.
We were young, and it was far away in Israel.
Two years later, as the numbers rose, the school handed out metal bracelets, each with the name and age of a murdered Israeli.
“Yafit Ravivo” – I’ll never forget the name engraved on mine.
She was 14, one of 11 people killed in a suicide bombing on a No. 20 Egged bus.
It was 7:00 am, and she was on her way to the beginning of 9th grade.
Now, as a mother, I learned that she was the middle daughter of 3 – like my own.
Fast forward 21 years, and there are no more glossy signs.
They wouldn’t be able to fit the thousands of names and faces.
Living in Israel, I no longer need a fashion accessory to remind me of the sacrifice my fellow Jews have made to call this Land home.
I’m intimately aware of the searing pain and destruction war and terror cause because it’s no longer anonymous faces.
It is my husband’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Avraham Shlomo Zalman Zoref, the first terror victim in the modern era – stabbed to death in 1851 by a sword-wielding Arab.
It’s my boss’s husband – murdered in cold blood during morning prayers.
It’s my sister’s aunt – whom she never met – killed by a tractor with her newborn baby miraculously unharmed.
It’s my friend’s brother – 20 years old and fighting for his country.
My neighbor’s son.
All our fellow brothers and sisters.
It’s there when I go on a chol hamoed outing to Oz V’Gaon park – built in memory of the 3 murdered boys – Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel hy”d – who hitchhiked and never, never came home.
It finds me again when I pass a sign for the “Ari Fuld Lookout Point” – commemorating our Lion of Zion who, although stabbed by an Arab terrorist outside a supermarket, used his last ounce of strength to prevent him from continuing his murderous acts.
It looks me in the eye when I pick up my daughter from gan and she has a pamphlet called “Kol Rina” – in memory of the 17-year-old Rina Schnerb – a distant cousin – killed in a bombing while hiking with her dad and brothers one Friday afternoon.
The pamphlet included a scratch-off to continue Rina’s legacy – revealing an act of kindness to perform in her memory.
I remember still when my husband and I go to a Comedy For Koby show – laughing till our cheeks hurt, but never forgetting the foundation’s namesake – Koby Mandel, Hyd, the 13-year-old who cut class with a friend and was murdered in a canyon near his home.
Because in this Holy Land, even though we live with terror, we don’t live in terror.
Today, as the wail of the Memorial Siren pierced my heart, I heard another sound, too.
It was the sweet song of birds chirping: heralding spring, renewal, life.
Against the backdrop of the bluest sky and the reddest earth, we vow to not have let these martyrs die in vain.
We call Israelis, Sabras, prickly pears” – rough on the outside, soft on the inside.
Today, Yom HaZikaron, is the one day a year when that rough exterior gets pulled back to reveal inner softness.
Armorless, we bleed our pain on our sleeve.
There are no crude jokes, seemingly carefree celebrations, or joyful dancing in the hot sun
There are only bitter tears, as salty as the Mediterranean.
A boulder of sorrow sits on my chest as my beloved country mourns our losses- too many to count.
Today, on this day of the inside-out Sabra, the thorns turn inward- piercing my heart and leaving my flesh exposed.
May Hashem avenge the deaths of those killed on this holy ground, and may their memory be blessed
Yom HaZikaron – A Day of Remembrance.
As if we could ever forget.