YOM HAZIKARON - ISRAEL’S MEMORIAL DAY
Israel’s Memorial Day is the day on which Israel pauses to remember all those who have given up their lives fighting for and defending the State of Israel, including victims of terrorism. It falls each year on the 4th of Iyar (the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day). This year Yom HaZikaron is on Wednesday 14th April.
This is from the pen of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ז״ל
(Z’’L - ז״ל - ‘may his memory be a blessing)
FAITH IN WAR
How do you live with the constant threat of violence and war? That takes faith. Israel is the people that has always been sustained by faith, faith in God, in the future, in life itself. And though Israel is a secular state, its very existence is testimony to faith: the faith of a hundred generations that Jews would one day return; the faith that led the pioneers to rebuild a land against seemingly impossible odds; the faith that after the Holocaust the Jewish people could live again; the faith that, in the face of death, continues to say: choose life.
FIGHTING FOR OUR VERY EXISTENCE
The journey is not yet over. Israel has not yet found peace. And after four thousand years Jews still find it hard to live their faith without fear. There is only one Jewish state, a country less that one quarter of one per cent of the land mass of the Arab world; the only place on earth where Jews form a majority, the only place where they are able to do what almost every other people takes for granted, to construct a society according to their values, and to be able to defend themselves. Jews still have to fight for the right to be.
FIGHTING FOR LIFE, FIGHTING FOR PEACE
Jews fought, and never more so than in the State of Israel, with the courage that you find only in those whose ultimate aim is not victory but peace, not triumph but life. Let us acknowledge the heroes of Medinat Yisrael, the heroes not just of military battle, but also the heroes of the human spirit, who are willing to die so that we can live. They lit a flame in the Jewish heart that will never die. Let us remember them and their past, and look today at the Israel they have built. A land of freedom and energy and creativity and life.
Carrying the Past, Turning Death into Life
AT THE end of the book of the book of Bereishit, Joseph makes one deeply poignant request: Though I die in exile, God will bring you back to the land, and when He does so, “veha’alitem et atzmotai mizeh”, “Carry my bones” with you. Moses smashed the first set of tablets given to him by God at Mount Sinai, but the Israelites carried them in the Ark, together with the second set: the new tablets and the fragments of the old.
And so it has been throughout Jewish history; we carry with us all the fragments of our people’s past, the broken lives, the anguished deaths. For we refuse to let their deaths be in vain. Our past lives on in us as we continue the Jewish journey to the future, to hope, and to life.
On Yom HaZikaron, we remember the members of the Israel Defence Forces who fell in action, and also all those killed by terrorist attacks in Israel. What our enemies killed, we keep alive in the only way we can: in our minds, our memories and in our land, the State of Israel. There are cultures that forget the past and there are those that are held captive by the past.
We do neither. We carry the past with us for as long as the Jewish people exist, as Moses carried the bones of Joseph, and as the Levites carried the fragments of the shattered tablets of stone. Those fragments of memory, of those no longer with us, help make us who we are. We live for what they died for, by walking tall as Jews, showing we are not afraid, refusing to be intimidated by the antisemitism that has returned, or the sustained assault on Israel.
On Yom HaZikaron, as we remember those who have fallen or been killed in defence of the State of Israel, we say to the souls of those lost: “We will never forget you. We will never cease to mourn you. We will never let you down”.