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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Everyone's Friends, Sons, Brothers, Daughters, Wives, Husbands, Sisters, Mothers, Fathers and More...

Israel's National Memorial Day for Victims of  Wars and Terrorism is today.  I'm not sure that's the official name.  For years I remember reading and hearing a long convoluted name like that, while this year I only saw it called "Memorial Day."  Soldiers killed in action (and accidents) used to be the only focus, but then a few years ago victims of Arab terror were added.

In the broad sense, when you accept that friends are mourners, too, we're all in the "club" of mourners.  Israel is a small family, a typo actually, I had meant to write that "Israel is a small country."  But in all honesty, we are all family.  It's pretty easy to start connecting us all between marriages and old family-like friendships.

My husband and I are part of a close group of friends who have known each other for almost half a century already.  I think that some have actually passed that half-century mark.  Every year we gather at the Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery at the graves of two close friends who were killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  And each year the young soldiers who are assigned by the IDF to "beef up" the minyan and show support tell us that it's so rare to see so many friends for a yartzeit so many decades after death.  This is a very special time for us, all immigrants from the same youth movement, Betar. 

Yesterday the Rami Levi Discount supermarket and Yafiz, where I work, closed early so people could get home for the memorial ceremonies.  I got to my house just as all the neighbors were leaving, but being exhausted I decided to stay home and watch the official ceremony on television.  It hadn't yet begun; the Israeli channels were showing short films about various dead soldiers and victims of Arab terror. 

At one point I switched channels and suddenly saw an old friend on the TV talking about her dead son.  I knew that I hadn't made a mistake by staying home.  The television brought me close enough to the pain of loss. 

I spent the rest of the evening watching the various films before and after the official televised ceremony.  Many of the films shown emphasised how the surviving family members survived, raising orphans, being parentless and relating to the children of their widowed daughters-in-law.

It's only a week after the official Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel, and the message from those blessed with life was very similar. There's a joy to life, and we must not concentrate on sadness and loss.

This year's Independence Day and Memorial Day are a bit early on the Jewish Calendar to prevent desecrating the Holy Shabbat.  Last night when I counted the Omer, it was very suitably the eighteenth of the Omer.  Eighteen in gematria is חי Chai, Life.  Yes, that's our reaction to our loss, living.

Yihi Zichrom Baruch
May Their Memories Be a Blessing

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