I know that some people have a problem with the Israeli custom which schedules Memorial Day immediately before Independence Day. It's an emotional roller-coaster as we quickly veer from tears to cheers.
Davka, I consider that timing to be of the most extreme importance and significance. The State of Israel would not exist and survive if it hadn't been for the bravery of our soldiers and civilians, who've lost their lives in our defense.
We remember and mourn not just the soldiers who actively fought for for the State of Israel, but we also remember and mourn the civilians murdered by Arab terrorists.
Last night at our Book Club meeting, we discussed the issue. We are "English readers" from a number of countries, so the question was:
"What do you remember of your former Memorial Day?"For those of us longest in Israel, we only remember Memorial Day as one for socializing and barbecues. It was a vacation day. Those who made aliyah more recently from North America consider it a major shopping day. "Memorial Day Sales" are big draws in marketing nowadays. There was nothing ideological, patriotic or "thankful" in the day to those who lost their lives in defense of the country. Just remember to bring money and have lots of food.
It's clear to us that if Israel would, Gd forbid, separate Memorial from Independence Days, we'd have that same problem. We'd find ourselves forgetting rather than remembering on Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron.
So, I'm taking this opportunity to remember two friends from over a half a century ago, both killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. They were members of Betar Zionist Youth Movement and lived in New York. We all made aliyah in the late 1960s early 1970s. Our friends in Israel still gather together every year at the Har Herzl graves.
Chaim, Chuck Hornstein, Haran, HaYa"D, was a "lone soldier" before there were special conditions privileges for those who joined the army without a family support system. Chuck was killed in the early days of the Yom Kippur War, up north in the Golan. He lives on in the memory of close friends.
Eli Solomon, HaYa"D, was a young father of two, married to Rena, when he was killed in the Sinai, after the ceasefire with Egypt. He is survived by his widow, children, grandchildren and many friends.
When we celebrate Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israeli Independence Day we remember the friends who are no longer with us. Actually, we remember them all the time. There are so many people we remember and mourn. Neighbors and students, children and grandchildren of those dear to us were also killed for no reason other than their being Jewish and Israeli. Some were uniformed IDF soldiers in battle gear, while others were just infants.
Our enemies don't distinguish between us. They have no mercy, nor do they value life. That is why we must remember and mourn at the same time that we celebrate our survival and the Independence of the State of Israel.