Reporting from Israel – Before Tiferet, I thought of Memorial Day as fireworks, barbeques, and swimming. It was the day when I woke up early so I could check the sales, the day it became fashionable to wear white again.
In Israel, Yom Hazikaron unfolds in a way I never really understood before. I knew it was a day to remember fallen soldiers. I learned about the siren in school, about how people stop their daily routines and the whole country remains silent for those few minutes. Here in Israel, I saw first hand how much this day means to people.
The first siren went off as all of Hod Hasharon was gathered for a Yom Hazikaron ceremony. Over a thousand people, most of us sitting on steps or in the aisles, stood up in silence. I’ll never forget the look on a mother’s face when she silenced her talking kids. Great respect for Yom Hazikaron is ingrained from childhood.
There were women and men crying. I saw people my age crying with their families, and I realized how connected everyone is to this land, because it was the land their family had fought and died for. Even though we had the option of sitting, Milken students stayed standing for every name called.
The next part of the ceremony was singing, and then they began to read the names. Every soldier from Hod Hasharon that died defending the state since 1932 was paid respect. I have no way of knowing how many died. I thought about the soldiers at first, but soon began to notice the faces around me. There were women and men crying. I saw people my age crying with their families, and I realized how connected everyone is to this land, because it was the land their family had fought and died for. Even though we had the option of sitting, Milken students stayed standing for every name called.
We learned about Michael Levin the next day, which helped us forge a greater understanding of this experience. He was from America, and died to save the rest of his unit from a grenade. I don’t know if I would ever have the courage to do something like that, yet that is the choice that Israeli soldiers are faced with daily.
During the school ceremony the next day, I thought about Michael during the siren. I thought about Yom Hazikaron in general, and tried to consider the story behind every single person who has died.
Memorial Day in America is fun. I know a few people who try to consider the soldiers, but they are certainly a minority. I have every intention of joining that minority next Memorial Day, and never forgetting the sacrifices of soldiers and the pain of their families.
Photos by Samantha Simon.