Memorial and Independence
It’s Memorial Day! In America we might be getting ready for big department store sales, shopping, backyard BBQs, and the beginning of summer vacation. In Israel, the mood is much different. Since even before 63 years ago when David Ben Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel, the people there have been been constantly at war. Almost every Israeli child goes directly, from high school into proud service for the IDF, defending his/her country and people, and every citizen knows somebody who has given his life to this battle.
At the start of memorial day (Yom Hazikaron), 8PM, an alarm sounds throughout the country. For one minute, citizens stop what they’re doing and observe a moment of silence and contemplation for their lost loved ones, and the over 25,000 soldiers and civilians lost in this ongoing conflict. People stop talking, stop cooking, kids stop playing and cars stop driving. Afterwards, many communities, kibbutzim, cities and families hold ceremonies, honoring the fallen closest to them. Because the reality of war and death is so close to the citizens of Israel on a daily basis, Memorial Day is a day of mourning for all. The following morning at 11AM, the alarm is once again sounded, this time for 2 minutes, and everyone’s lives stop as they remember.
Despite this, guide Hagai Gov is alway quick to explain that Israelis are people who live normal lives in an abnormal situation. At the borders there is always conflict, defense, bombings, difficult situations and even more difficult decisions. But in the cities and countrysides there is life and joy. As if to state this loud and clear, Israel celebrates its Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut immediately following Yom Hazikaron. Families take the day off to BBQ on the beaches, and the youths spend their nights partying in the streets. Now, if only I could tell you exactly why that involves giant dancing pandas…..but really, does there have to be a reason?