Yom Hazikaron: Experiences of an Immigrant who Learned to be a Mourner

Managing Editors Note: Israeli Memorial Day – Yom HaZikaron – is observed this year from the eve of Sunday, May 4th through the end of the daytime on Monday, May 5th.

I was born and raised in Argentina. From the first years of my adolescence I participated in the ceremonies of Yom Ha’azmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). I remember these activities at the headquarters of Hacoaj, as well as the national ones organized by the juvenile Zionist movement in different areas in the country – La Plata, Córdoba, etc.

In the later years of my adolescence I started participating in another ceremony, the day before Independence day, which took place in the cemetery of Tablada (one of the Jewish cemeteries in Buenos Aires). Yom Hazikaron, memorial day, in which we remember the soldiers who have fallen as well as those who were murdered in acts of terrorism.

Understanding the connection between the two dates and the transition between the profound pain and the happiness, I attended the convocation of memorial day, and to this we perhaps added an activity in the tnu’a (juvenile movement). This is how my connection with this date was born.

I was almost 21 when I went to live in Israel, made “aliya” (lit. “moved up” – the term commonly used when talking about immigration to Israel). One part of the adaptation to my new life and country was learning how celebration and commemoration are done in Israel.

I remember my first Yom Hazikaron, talking to my Hebrew teacher at the Kibbutz, who was a woman extremely “dry”; I remember her eyes filling with tears as she explained to us that in Israel “today” we are all mourning, her son was one of the fallen. I remember my feeling of having no words in front of the irreparable sadness of a mother.

A year later, at the university, I had a girlfriend who lost her grandfather (among others), who invited me to go with her on the eve of Yom Hazikaron to her school’s ceremony. Your school? I asked; Yes, she said, all schools have ceremonies to remember their alumni. This was the first time I understood that our “big” soldiers, whose who fill the trains and busses on Sundays and Fridays, hurrying to get back to their base or home, were no more than adolescents, younger than me at 23 years old.

In my room at the university we had an old TV which we found in some passage way, we made an antenna for it by connecting a cable and a fork to a potato. The picture was pretty good. I turned on the TV and stayed up all night watching videos which were prepared by families to commemorate their fallen. I remember the profound pain and the feeling that I can’t miss a single story, as if, had I fallen asleep, the life of someone would have been forgotten. Around 6am I fell asleep, though I didn’t turn the TV off and few hours later I woke up and continued watching… I went out to the balcony to stand up when the siren sounded (the siren begins around 1:15) and immediately returned to the TV.

For the last 10 years I’ve been doing the same thing, year after year, I still haven’t found the words to say to my teacher, because there are none! There is no comfort to the terrible pain of loss of our loved ones who have fallen in was or in terrorist attacks, for that the call in this day is to take part in the memory, to be present through our memory.

Today we are mourning all together. We pray for the souls and the blessed memories of our heroes and martyrs who gave their lives for the state of Israel, “reshit tzemichat ge’ulatenu” – the start of our redemption as a People. In this way we appeal to our sensitivity to not be indifferent to the pain of the other, recognizing the humanity of our enemies, committing to a life of striving towards peace.

We love, we cry, we remember and we commit.

Shalom

“Yizkor Am Israel” – “the People of Israel shall remember”

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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