yomzYom HaZikaron: The Sacred Privilege of Awareness

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

I never knew anything about Yom HaZikaron when I was living in America. The 4th of Iyar had no relevance to my life. I lived by the American calendar not the Jewish calendar. But thank G-d, since coming home to our nation’s divinely ordained biblical inheritance, my mind knows, my heart knows and my soul knows the date and if I ever forget, the sirens that pierce the airwaves (one at 8PM and one at 11AM) remind me of the sacred privilege of Yom HaZikaron awareness.

Yom HaZikaron is a special day set aside as a time of remembering the fallen soldiers of Israel, as well as the civilian victims of war and terrorism. It is a precious day that offers national solace to the memory of the fallen, as well as communal support to the families. Unlike America, where it is a day of shopping and play, here in the Holy Land, the character of the day is like a 24-hr fast from all public places of entertainment. All businesses, schools and stores are closed. All radio and TV station broadcasting is devoted to stories and songs dedicated to the fallen of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is officially observed for all of those who fell since 1860 when Jews were first allowed to live outside the city limits of Jerusalem in what was then known as “Palestine.”

One of the many commemorative  practices that take place during the 24 hour period is the scroll of names that is broadcast by government-owned television stations. The names of the fallen are scrolled on the screen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date of deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about 3 seconds each…..3 sacred seconds to remind us of the life they gave up for a cause they believed in with their very life.

My heart is especially heavy this year as the holy date approaches, for who would have imagined last year in 2015, what we would be faced with, as the high holidays arrived and terrorism reared its ugly, ferocious, beastly head. The losses are so fresh and so real and so painful. When one is close to the source of suffering, it is more intense and impactful.

I believe every Jew, wherever they may be, owes it to their nation to mark their calendar with the date of YOM HAZIKARON AND TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS OF THE SACREDNESS OF THE DAY. This day bears a message for every Jew as to the debt of gratitude they owe to those who gave their lives in the fight for reclaiming our sovereignty in our G-d given land.

In a telling article written by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis in a pamphlet entitled, “Zionism, A Challenge to Man’s Faith,” she lays out the truth about what it is like to be a citizen of the State of Israel, on the line, as she tells the following story:

In the Holy City, I met a woman who related a tale which reflects the agony of Zionism in the 20th and now 21st century. The woman of Jerusalem had a son named David who was 20 years old. She had a sister, who lived in New York, who had a son the same age named Chaim. Chaim, the American cousin came to Jerusalem for a year of study. Then suddenly, the Yom Kippur War broke out. Both boys were in synagogue together praying side by side. David, still wrapped in his talit (prayer shawl), without pausing for food or water, ran to answer the call of his people. He bid farewell to his cousin, his mother, his father, and to his young bride. He felt he had no choice but to go forth to defend his people.

The following day, the mother in Jerusalem, received an emergency call from the United States. “Please, please, a near hysterical voice called across the great ocean…Where is my Chaim? Please do not let him do anything rash…you must find him and get him out on the first plane to safety. We are sick with worry. I want him home!” The mother in new York was overcome with fear…and somehow in her agitation forgot to ask about David….her sister’s son…the son of Jerusalem, whose heart at that very moment was pierced by a shell in the Golan….(Northern Israel).

TWO SISTERS…TWO MOTHERS…TWO SONS

The Rebbetzin then writes the following:

The story haunts me. It leaves me no peace…For indeed, if the land of Israel has been given by G-d as an inheritance to all Jews, then by what right do we in the United States go to sleep in security, knowing that our sons are well and sound, while our sisters lie awake with a gnawing fear gripping their hearts…asking the question, “Where is he now?” …whispering a silent prayer, Hashem, Almighty G-d watch over him…”

The Rebbetzin continues:

No matter how much the American Jew has given and will give on behalf of Israel, he will never equal the sacrifice of those who live there and offer their very lives for the land.

No Matter how much the American Jew continues to give, he will never be able to justify the fact that he belongs to the generation that was given Jerusalem yet opts for New York or Los Angeles.

To have witnessed 2,000 years…to have suffered the agonies of exile…to have dreamt and hoped to have been given the land only to reject it! How will the Jews in exile answer to future generations when they ask, “Where were YOU?”

The message of the day is clear….the Jewish nation owes its independence first and foremost for the miracle G-d wrought in returning us to our homeland but secondly to the pioneers, soldiers and citizens who have and will sacrifice their lives for its existence and its future.

Please take note of the day and honor the memory of its fallen and the families left behind. Also please offer special prayers for those victims still recovering.

yom hazikaronIDF soldiers participate in a memorial ceremony on the Israeli national Memorial Day, in honor of fallen soldiers and the victims of terror attacks. Each soldier stands before the grave of a fallen serviceman.

Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before  Yom Haatzmaut is intended to remind people of the price paid for independence and of what was achieved by the soldiers’ sacrifice. This transition shows the importance of the day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during their military service.

Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day

Fallen Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces

Today marks the Memorial Day for the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who have fallen in the line of duty. We shall now publish the following remarks (with some additional explanations) which were made by Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosefzt”l approximately thirty years ago at a Memorial Day gathering. These ideas are quite appropriate for today as well.

The Gemara (Baba Batra 10b) states: “No creation can stand on the level of the ‘Martyrs of Lod.’” The “Martyrs of Lod” refers to a story when once, the king’s daughter was murdered and the gentiles suspected the Jews of murdering her and thus decreed that the entire Jewish nation be annihilated. Two brothers, Papus and Lulianus, came forward and saved the entire nation from certain death by claiming that they had killed the king’s daughter. Thus, only they were killed, but the rest of the Jewish people were left in peace. Our Sages teach us that because of the boundless reward they enjoy in the World to Come, no creation can stand on their lofty level.

This idea surely applies to the fallen soldiers of the IDF who are buried in Israel, may their souls be bound up in the circle of life, for they have given up their very lives in order to ensure the security, safety, and protection of the Jewish nation.

Indeed, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l once commented to one of his close confidants that those who travel long distances to visit the graves of righteous sages should know that there is a mountain close by (he was referring to Mount Herzl near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Ve’Gan which serves as a military cemetery) which houses many graves of holy souls.

We must shed copious tears for the blood of our brethren which has been spilled like water. Since the destruction of the Holy Temple, so much Jewish blood has been spilled and various nations of the world never cease attempting to destroy us. Indeed, a Heavenly voice rings out three times daily and weeps bitterly: “Woe unto me, for I have destroyed my house, burnt my hall, and exiled my children among the nations of the world.” Throughout history, we have always served as a target for the hatred of the nations of the world; an eternal hatred for the Eternal Nation. How many hundreds of communities were brutally butchered during the periods of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and more recently and worst of all, during the inferno called the Holocaust which claimed the lives of some six-million Jews including so many luminaries and righteous individuals? Even in our times, we still suffer from the Intifadas of our Palestinian neighbors have claimed the lives of so many of our soldiers. Indeed, our Sages tell us in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (23a): “Woe unto the nations of the world, for they have no remedy.”

Our Sages teach us (Yalkut Shimoni, Parashat Matot) regarding all those who have been killed by the wicked nations of the world that Hashem dips the garment He wears in their blood until it becomes fully red and saturated with blood. When the Day of Reckoning arrives, Hashem shall don this garment and will glance at all of the corpses of the people who were killed by these wicked nations and He shall then avenge their blood from these wicked nations, as the verse states, “He shall judge the nations regarding the multitude of corpses.”

This Memorial Day should not only serve as a day to mourn our fallen soldiers whose death is as painful to us as the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, but it should also serve as a day of self-introspection. We must strive to uphold to the traditions of our ancestors by returning to the Torah and good deeds and educating our children in the true Torah way, as the verse states, “Return to Me and I shall return to you.” So many of our fallen brethren have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to ensure the continuation of our nation through proper Torah living. Additionally, so many have given up their lives simply to sanctify Hashem’s name by refusing to forsake their religion. Certainly then, their death obligates us to live a life of Torah and Mitzvah observance, as Rabbeinu Sa’adia Gaon states, “The Jewish nation is not a nation without its Torah.”

May the great sacrifice of the fallen soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces zt”l, defenders of our Holy Land, serve as an everlasting merit to protect their families and may they beseech Hashem’s mercy on our behalf before His Throne of Glory so that we no longer have to endure further tragedies, as the verse states, “Your sun shall no longer set and your moon shall not be gathered, for Hashem shall be your eternal light and the days of your mourning shall be complete.” Furthermore, may we merit seeing the fulfillment of the verse, “I shall prepare a place for my nation, Israel, and I shall plant them and they shall dwell there and the sons of injustice shall no longer continue to oppress them as they once had.” May we merit the ultimate joy of the rebuilding of the everlasting Third Bet Hamikdash, as the verse states, “For a day of vengeance is in My heart and the year of my redemption draws near. Oh, if only He would provide from Zion the salvation of Israel by Hashem returning His nation’s captives; Yaakov shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad.” May Hashem remove the spirit of impurity from the land and may the Redeemer come to Zion, speedily in our days, Amen.

A Tzfat Resident Reflects on Yom HaZikaron

A Tzfat Resident Reflects on Yom HaZikaron

by Binyamin

Yom HaZikaron in Jerusalem 012I would like share with you some of my thoughts and feelings.

The last couple of days here in Israel have been heart-wrenching. The whole nation stops to remember the beloved 23,169 soldiers and terror victims that we have lost. Every Jew here feels the pain so deeply and personally with real heartfelt sorrow and open floods of tears. Last night at a few minutes to eight on Yaffo Road in Yerushalayim, I watched in fascination as six carriages of the light rail that runs down the middle of the wide street slowly stopped and the people in the carriages of the train stood, as one, as the siren rang out to announce the beginning of the day of mourning.

As the sound filled the air, powerful unrelenting tears began to flow and when it stopped I opened my eyes to see the hundreds of people in the street around me wiping their tears away. Many strangers (brothers and sisters all) with their arms around each other in a spontaneous display of Ahavat Yisrael. Each one comforting the next. And then the cars of the light rail moved on as people began to take their seats again.

Later that night in Tel Aviv I sat in front of my computer watching the several tv stations that were showing different memorial ceremonies. The Prime Minister, the President and Benny Ganz, the head of the IDF, spoke movingly and many beautiful songs were sung. Then many others spoke and though my conversational Hebrew is not so good I watched and listened as dozens of relatives and friends, parents, children and neighbors shared memories of their lost loved ones. How it burns at your heart and now the tears are no longer silent as they had been several hours before. Now we are weeping without even a desire or a need to find any control. At about 3 in the morning I fell into a deep sleep.

Later, on the packed train returning to my home in Tzfat the crowds were enormous. Soldiers returning from and heading to various commemorations. Old people and kids and such a buzz of unity. I came home overjoyed to be a part of this wondrous people. Now it’s after eleven at night and the second display of fireworks for Yom Ha Atzmaut is dominating this beautiful ancient city. I hear the singing and dancing has begun in the streets.

I anxiously await the rest of the Jewish family’s return to our home!

From the holy city of Tzfat,

 

Binyamin

 

The flag in our garden

THE FLAG IN OUR GARDEN

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

yomhatzmautpoem

THE FLAG IN OUR GARDEN

The flag in our garden is shredded and torn

Like the hearts of so many Jews

The Jews who live in the Land

The ones who love the white and blue.

The Jews who lost their loved ones

In the fight for our nation to be free

In the land flowing with our lifeblood

The place given you and me.

Our ancient biblical homeland

The Land of the white and blue

The only place on earth where a Jew can be loyal and true

True to his biblical heritage

True to his G-d the King

True to his soul and his spirit where all of his gifts he can bring

to share with his holy nation

The nation of white and blue

the only place  on earth where he can be a true Jew.

I now feel the losses of my people

As I live in the Land of the free

The nation who reclaimed its sovereignty

On the day G-d made it to be

The 5th of  the month of Iyar

The Month of healing and light

During a time when the darkness of oppression had made the days feel like night

We call it Divine intervention

We call it a miraculous gift

We call it the power of G-ds mercy

And it gave our nation a lift

And restored us to our greatness

In the land of the white and blue

Where we can now serve G-d in gratitude

And to our Holy nation in our Holy Land be forever true!

yomhatzmautpoem2

Yom HaZikaron-Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel

yomhazikaron

YOM HAZIKARON/REMEMBRANCE DAY FOR THE FALLEN OF ISRAEL

By Ariella Bracha Waldinger

Yom HaZikaron is not a holiday! It is a Day of Remembrance dedicated to the memory of those who have fallen in Israel’s wars and acts of terrorism. On this special day, we recall the recent and not so recent losses that sear our heartstrings with the agony of lives cut short. It is a time of official recognition that brings families and friends together to acknowledge those who have lost their lives.

The date of this Remembrance Day is the 4th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it begins on the night of May 4th and continues through the day of May 5th. The practice of commemorating this day began in 1951 under the leadership of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. This specific date was chosen to highlight the connection between Independence Day, which is the day following Yom Hazikaron, and the people who died to enable us to achieve and maintain our independence. The connection is a powerful statement of the Jewish belief that every life is a world of its own and of inestimable value. Therefore, the untimely death of one Jewish soul…..one loved one is a tragedy which impacts the entire nation.

The Jewish People is a people of collective memory:  Remember the Exodus from Egypt etc. Therefore, in each generation we honor the memories of those who have perished, in order to link them in a precious chain to the collective memory of our nation.  Since there is hardly anyone in Israel who has not lost a family member, friend or acquaintance, the day is significant for every Jew.

Yom HaZikaron begins at 8 P.M. with a 2-minute siren. There is a second siren at 11 a.m. the following morning. It is customary for everyone to stop what they are doing, including driving one’s car on the highway, and to observe two minutes of silence. These moments of silence can be uplifted through personal prayer and contemplation. TV and radio stations devote the entire day to programs related to the subject. Flags are flown at half-mast to indicate the seriousness of the day. Commemoration ceremonies are held throughout the country in public buildings and cemeteries.

For those of you who are new to Israel or for those who have no family and are unsure what to do to honor this day, here are some suggestions:

  •  Go to a military cemetery and stand together with those who have lost loved ones. Their pain will become your pain as you share the experience.
  •  Say Tehillim (Psalms) for the souls of the departed
  • Give charity on their behalf
  • Do deeds of kindness in their merit
  • Read up on the history of Israel
  • Read books on the various wars
  • Study about the IDF, its operations and insignia
  • Read selections of Israeli poetry
  • Light a candle or candles for their souls
  • Say the prayer for the Welfare of the soldiers in the IDF:

 May He who blessed our forefathers Avraham, Isaac and Jacob, bless the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces who keep guard over our country and the cities of our Lord from the border with Lebanon to the Egyptian desert and from the Mediterranean Sea to the approach to the Arava, be they on land, air or sea. May the Almighty deliver to us our enemies who arise against us. May the Holy One, Blessed Be HE, preserve our armed forces and save them from sorrow and peril, danger and illness. May HE send  blessing and success in all their endeavors and may HE deliver to them those who hate us and crown them with salvation and victory, so that the saying may be fulfilled through them, For the Lord, your G-d, who walks with you and fights your enemies for you shall  save you and let us say AMEN.

The most important suggestion I can make in regards to this significant Day of Remembering is to actually spend quality time learning and reflecting upon the deeper meaning of this day. DO NOT ALLOW IT GO TO WASTE! Am Yisrael needs your efforts to enable us all to stand Tall and Proud as Jews LIVING IN OUR G-D GIVEN ANCESTRAL INHERITANCE where we too must become courageous warriors if our nation is to survive.

One of my favorite books is titled: Lionhearts: Heroes of Israel edited by Michael Bar-Zohar. It is about the heroes of Israel dating from 1897 up until 1998. In the Introduction, the editor states, “Lionhearts is dedicated to the fighters who fell in battle or on Israel’s secret fronts and to those who are alive today. It is dedicated to the spirit of the fighters, to the quality of volunteering, self-sacrifice for one’s fellow man, utmost courage and nobility without which a nation can’t exist. A hero is not measured by fame, but by his willingness to take risks for his nation and even sacrifice his life for it. The heroes and heroines in the book share many commonalities: pure souls and burning dreams, extreme modesty, a humane approach to both their friends and enemies, a deep love of their land and a total identification with their nation. Each of us could learn from the stories in this book and I highly recommend it.”

With Blessings for a deeply meaningful and enriching Yom HaZikaron, Ariella Bracha