By Rolene Marks
There are 23 741 reasons to bow our heads this Yom Hazikaron. There are 23 741 reasons to express our profound eternal gratitude. There are 23 741 reasons for our hearts to ache. There are 23 741 reasons to be proud. 23 741 reason for the tears to fall from our eyes. There are 23 741 to remember. There are 23 741 names ingrained in our hearts forever. There are 23 741 reasons for the siren to wail its mournful cry.
23 741 soldiers, security forces and police have fallen in defense of Israel since its birth as a modern state in 1948.
We will never forget them.
The stories of unparalleled bravery and selfless sacrifice like Roi Klein, who saved the life of his unit by absorbing the blast of grenade. Risking it all to leave the comforts of home in the US, to serve as a paratrooper like Michael Levine. The iconic warrior like Yoni Netanyahu who fell in Israel’s daring Entebbe operation in 1976 that rescued 102 Jewish hostages from a hijacked Air France passenger aircraft in Uganda’s capital.
The names of the wars and operations are etched in memory – the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars with Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead and so on.
Their names are seared in our hearts.
And there are those whose names we will never know but whose valiant acts of bravery are the reasons that we enjoy the freedoms that we do.
At 20h00 a mournful siren will announce the start of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen warriors and victims of terror.
Yom Hazikaron inspires in us a sense of awe and creates an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world, but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Our soldiers are not uniformed strangers who serve but our children, spouses, colleagues, parents, friends and lovers.
They are the people we love.
Yom Hazikaron is not only a day of remembrance, but also one of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful we are for all who protect us on land, sea and air. Our brave warriors, these lions of Zion are our guardians and protectors. We are proud of them; we embrace them, and we love them.
Israelis respect life. We revere life and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility.
This year is particularly poignant. I write this just days after 700 rockets were fired by terror groups in the Gaza strip into Israel, killing 4 civilians (may their memories be for a blessing) and injuring and traumatizing countless others. We were reminded again that the guardians of Israel neither slumber nor sleep as they worked 24/7 to protect us. We thankfully lost no soldiers but days like this are bitter reminders of the threats we face as a nation and how achingly close we come to situations where this is a possibility.
In recent years, Yom Hazikaron has also included honouring victims of terror attacks.
Victims targeted simply for being Israeli. We remember brave men like Ari Fuld who gave chase to his murderer before succumbing to his wounds. Zidan Saif, a Druze policeman who had come off his shift when he heard of an attack on a synagogue and rushed to assist and paid with his life. We remember teenagers Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naphtali Frenkel – whose names live on in heartbreaking infamy. We remember the mothers and father, brothers and sisters, grandparents and babies – gone soon, far too soon. This year the number of victims of terror is 3 146.
There are 3 146 reason to remember, to wipe the tears from our eyes, to light a candle.
In an emotional paradox, the sun will set on mourning and Israel will don her best blue and white to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.
This year we have 23 741 more reasons to. We celebrate in their names.
They will forever be the watchers on our walls, the guardians of our gates. Their memories will be forever blessed.
“…And so they stand, the light on their faces, and the Lord,
alone passes among them, with tears in His eyes He kisses
their wounds, and He says in a trembling voice to the white
angels: “These are my sons, these are my sons.”
The Parade of the Fallen / Hayim Hefer