Yom Hazikaron 5776

I believe there is one question I have no answer to, yet cannot ignore.

Why does it always seem to be the good people? The exceptionally wise, mature, caring, loving, lively and happy people? The ones who were exceptionally dedicated to justice, happiness, unity and love. The ones who could and were making a difference in the world… Why is it always them?

When I made my decision to draft to the IDF, everyone asked me if I’m scared. Without hesitation, I responded no. But then I started thinking further than the fear of what could happen to me, and I began to think of what can happen to my friends. I, thank G-d, am blessed with the most exceptional friends. The group of people- the family I have become a part of- that is drafting with me are some of the most caring, loving, friendly and lovely people I know. Exceptional in every sense of the word.

That’s when I begin to get scared. What if next Yom Hazikaron I’ll personally know one of the ones that show up on the list?

I deeply and most sincerely feel the pain of the 23,447. I know that they were not my blood related family and I know I haven’t even met them, yet I feel as if I have known them for a significant chunk of my life. And I, therefore, feel the pain.But that being said, if I feel such intense pain, I cannot begin to imagine what the bereaved families are feeling. And I wish there was something I could do- something I could say… But what are you supposed to say on this one day when they live this day as their reality everyday?

There is nothing to say.

There is nothing to do.

And so we all sit together and break down on the one day we actually allow ourselves to break down the walls we put up throughout the year- the walls of steel we call our strength that cannot be broken. But when we’re all crying together on this one day we allow ourselves to sulk in the sorrow, we are also holding each other. A little girl runs to her mother to and presses her tear-filled face into her mother’s chest as she cries from the unbearable pain that is overtaking her heart. And the mother doesn’t pretend to be perfectly fine, because this is the one day no one does. She cries. But she holds her little girl in her arms and they cry together.

That’s our nation. This is my family…

And so when I think about the fear of my beloved friends drafting with me- I stop letting the fear get the best of me and I realize that it is not just my friends who are exceptional- this whole country is filled with exceptional people.

And so instead of fearing, I am quickly humbled and comforted by focusing on the beauty of my difficult reality.

We lost 23,447 exceptional members of our family. But what made us all exceptional is the will to continue their exceptional legacy. It now lives on through us.

It is our responsibility to make sure their legacies do indeed live on through us. Because our country, our people- we are built on their “exceptionality.” They don’t want us to be paralyzed by the pain as we mourn. Rather, be inspired by what it has made of us.

It is, therefore, our obligation to carry on their legacy. That means becoming the exceptional that they were. And the only way to do that is to live. To never let anything break us. To pick ourselves up, bring happiness, unity and love into this world.

But we also have to acknowledge what it is they fought for- what it is that made up part of the exceptional people they were. They fought for us. For our home. Their family was (is) at risk and they devoted their lives to try to protect us as much as possible.

So how dare one stand here and not support that which they died for. They didn’t die for us to live in America or Europe. They fought for us to live in Israel- home- where we belong. Don’t let it be in vain.
Continue their legacy and live life exceptionally. Continue what they started and come home.

About the Author
Maya Neiman is currently a student at Midreshet Harova (girls seminary in The Old City). She plans on living in Israel and, next year, will start her sheirut leumi service. and will then attend Bar Ilan University.