Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Remembrance Day in Israel 2020

When the siren sounds at eight in the evening I stand outside alone. I light the two memorial candles and think of last year, before Corona, when I sat in Shilo’s sports stadium. With me on the crowded bleachers were my husband, son, and grandson. Three generations witnessing that the Nation of Israel lives on. Next to us were the father and younger brother of murdered Baby Yehuda, proof that terror and war will not break us.

My husband returns from his restricted outdoor prayers and we enter the house together, just the two of us, to connect to Zoom and watch the Shilo program on our computer. It’s personal, focusing on our Avihu Keinan who was killed while serving in Gaza seventeen years ago. When it’s over we watch the same clip we see every year, a collage of pictures of each of our victims: 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. Yonatan, who was shot to death with his gemmorah in his 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.

Not ready to return to business as usual I opened an old, black and white documentary, Let My People Go. Produced before the Six Day War it is of poor quality and choppy but it tells the story of the Shoah and establishment of the State of Israel well with countless pictures. Later those pictures haunt my sleep. It’s not the horror of the concentration camps and the Warsaw Ghetto that keep me awake. Nor the despair of the refugees being turned away at the shores of Palestine. Neither is it the thrill of David Ben Gurion reciting the special prayer when he declares the State of Israel. No, what keeps me awake is the vision of the determined Jews trekking over a snow filled mountain path on their way to an Italian port to board a ship bound for their homeland.

As I contemplate their arduous journey I can’t help comparing it with my Aliyah. Healthy, with a husband and five children in tow, I boarded an El Al plane and less than a day later I arrived in Israel. I was given a rent-free, utility paid house for six months, free Hebrew lessons, discounts on the purchase of a car, appliances, furniture, education, and rent.

Like the refugees in the documentary I was determined but my path was so much easier. And it was easier because of those who came before me. Those who dug the soil, planted trees, built the country, fought the British and the Arabs, and continue until this day to protect me. Avihu, baby Yehuda, and all the others died so I can live. They died so tomorrow we can have an Independence Day. They died for me. Their memories also keep me awake. I must never forget them.

Pictures and memorial candles of Shilo's fallen


David Alan Fairman said...

Thank you Esther. It is amazing to see how many families have had to sacrifice children, and yet they are the ones who show us the way to live.

YMedad said...

Words from the heart, words of truth, from my across-the-street neighbor.

ester said...

Thank you both for your kind comments.