Growing up in Canada, we often ask ourselves at some point what is sacred to us and what we might die for. Of course, democracy, freedom and the Canadian way of life are generally the values thought of. This belief system, however, is mostly tested only during times of war. Nowadays the farthest thing from the minds of our Canadian children is that they will one day have to fight to preserve our way of life. We feel safe, and not surprisingly, embrace this country knowing that our progeny will likely not have to go off to war and, God forbid, be killed.
Living in Israel is different.
When children grow up anywhere in Israel, they will say: “I will fight and die for the State of Israel, democracy, and for all Jews.” The thing is that along with a young person’s answer comes the knowledge that as he or she grows, there is a likelihood this value will be tested. If you are born in Eretz Yisrael, you will likely serve in the Israel Defence Forces. If you do, and a war breaks out, which happens every few years, you could find yourself on the frontlines and at the other end of the enemy’s gun.
Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance in Israel, speaks to this point. Essentially, as the siren goes off the night before and again the following morning, and that most uncomfortable sound bellows throughout the nation, the collective thinking is directed toward those men and women who were once children and accepted the responsibility of being Israeli Jews, and because of that, paid with their lives.
On Yom Hazikaron, when citizens from all corners of the state visit the graveyards of their sons and daughters, they also recall the Israelis who walked into a nightclub in Tel Aviv or attended a Passover seder in Netanya and were met by a bomb wrapped in nails and ball bearings intended to kill as many Jews as possible. They remember the victims of terror.
On Yom Hazikaron, April 14 to 15 (Iyar 4), it is important that, as Canadian parents and children, we consider, as well as we can, those we are remembering and why it is so important to do this. We remember the 26,000 people killed in Israel through war and terror since Jews were able to live outside of the Old City in the mid-1800s.
We are all called upon to think about the sacrifice Jewish Israelis and Bedouins are called upon to make as soon as they exit their mother’s womb. Similarly, we are encouraged to think about the parents who decided to start a family, to give birth to a little boy or girl knowing full well that in 18 short years, a blink of an eye, the infants will walk away from their home with a machine gun hanging from their shoulder wearing fatigues meant to be as nondescript as possible, designed to make these sons and daughters look alike – because that’s what armies require.
On Yom Hazikaron, consider all of this, and then remember that the very next day, Yom Ha’azmaut, Israel Independence Day, is celebrated.
And therein lies the special consciousness of our Israeli brothers and sisters. They are prepared to fight and die for Israel and our Jewishness, and we will celebrate until dawn because they are alive today as their children understand what is required of them – to give their lives if necessary.