Tonight Remembrance Day for Israel’s fallen begins and I plan to go to the ceremony in the Shilo gym. I’ve learned my lesson. This year I indeed to take a full box of tissues with me. Last year I couldn’t even make it to the entrance without crying. By the time I sat down next to my daughter in the bleachers I was sobbing. For I knew that the difference of a couple of meters and a few seconds were what kept her for becoming a young widow* in our last war, Protective Edge.
Now that war is almost two years behind us. And still we have added so many more names to the roster of those we mourn, those murdered in terror attacks and those killed protecting us in battle. How do we keep going? How can we end Remembrance Day Wednesday night and immediately begin celebrating Independence Day with such happiness? Although not easy questions to answer I believe we get our strength from our Torah and our faith. With this in mind I decided to repost the article I wrote two years ago, several months before the kidnapping of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali and the subsequent war, Protective Edge.
My eyes hurt. They are swollen. It is not because of the allergy season although that doesn’t help. No, my eyes are puffy and sore because I cried last night. I cried a lot. It happens every year at the Remembrance Day Ceremony in the Shilo Gym. Every year I realize I did not bring enough tissues with me. Every year I am amazed anew that I still have tears left to cry.
When I was in high school I remember reading a book by a Jewish humorist, perhaps Sam Levenson or Harry Golden. In it the author complained about my generation. Being that my generation was the generation of drugs and hippies and anti-establishment, his complaint was rather novel. His grievance was that we had no appreciation of the miracles of the twentieth century he and his contemporaries had seen. He quipped that he instructed his children that they would watch Exodus again and this time they better cry when Israel was declared a state.
I needed no such exhortations. Watching Exodus I sobbed through most of the movie and I believe I cried myself to sleep over Karen being murdered by an Arab terrorist. What preparation for living here in Israel!
Last night all of our martyrs from Shilo were remembered. Rachela, the young mother of seven, whose murder opened the cemetery in Shilo. Harel, the rabbi’s son, who was murdered while doing guard duty. Baby Yehuda, whose skull was crushed by an Arab who ambushed the car he was travelling in. Avi, who was shot to death on the basketball court of his yeshiva high school. Shmuel and Gila, who were blown up by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Noam, whose last act was to lock the door and save most of the others when his yeshiva was infiltrated by murdering terrorists. Avihu, who fell in action in Gaza. Yonaton, who was shot to death with his gemmorah in hand inside his yeshiva. Sholom, who was run down in a vicious act of anti-Semitism. May their memories be for a blessing and may HaShem avenge their blood.
Other stories were told, stories of friends and relatives of some of our Shilo members. For every story told there were countless more waiting to be told. Stories of soldiers felled in war, leaving gaping holes in the lives of their loved ones. Stories of heroes who died while rescuing others. Stories of children and youth, parents and grandparents whose lives suddenly ended in violent acts of terror.
After such a litany of pain and loss the obvious question is why I stay here. Why don’t I move back to Kansas, where I was born? The answer is not simple. Kansas is not so safe. Unfortunately, terror is almost everywhere. By staying in Israel I am living where HaShem commanded me to live and I can help build the country. Tonight, with the beginning of Israel Independence Day, we will we raise our flag of mourning and celebrate with hearts full of thankfulness that we have returned to our Promised Land. With HaShem’s help, I will attend the celebration in Itamar. There will be the dedication of the new synagogue, built in memory of The Fogels**. They will pray and feast, and at the end of the ceremony they will sing the national anthem, HaTikvah (The Hope), and Ani Ma’amin (I Believe).
While I sing I will know that there is still much work to be done. Our anthem is still our hope. We will someday be a free people in our own land obeying only The Almighty and not the UN or President Obama or any other politicians. That has not happened yet, but in the words of Ani Ma’amin I know it will.
I believe with perfect faith that the Moshiach will come, even though he might tarry, I will wait daily for his arrival. I believe.
I believe and I pray that this will be the year.
It wasn’t that year but I continue to believe and I won’t stop praying.
*refer to my article, My Conversation With An Injured Soldier, August 19th, 2014
** more about their grisly murders in my article, Thoughts on the Horror in Itamar, April 4th, 2011