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Yom HaZikaron: A Day of Pause and Reflection

Yom HaZikaron: A Day of Pause and Reflection

Starting in the evening on Tuesday, May 10, Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world will mark Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance for Israeli fallen soldiers and victims of terror. This national holiday, intentionally placed the day before Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, is a somber reminder that the existence of a vibrant Jewish state does not come without its costs.

On Yom HaZikaron, a special Israeli TV channel shows the name of every soldier and terror victim who has died since Israel’s founding. We know, all too well, that the station is not at a loss for names to scroll across that screen. Over 23,000 Israelis have died in wars and terrorist attacks since the pre-state days of Jewish settlement in Israel, and the list keeps on growing. The wave of deplorable violence that continues to afflict Israeli communities has left many dead, and even more bereaved since last year.

Perhaps the most notable feature of Yom HaZikaron in Israel is the blare of the siren that sounds all over the country for one long moment during the day. It prompts everyone in the country to pause and honor those the country has lost. It is truly moving to see so many pause their busy lives and reflect.

Thinking about this siren and this national tradition of reflecting and paying tribute, has conjured up memories of my own time in Israel. I remember spending much of the summer of 2001 in Jerusalem and hearing gunshots from the Second Intifada echo off the hills. Our neighbor, a surgeon, was called in to the hospital too many times because of yet another attack. While I was only seven at the time, these memories have stuck with me, reminding me of the volatility those who live in Israel face daily.

For me, these recollections and Yom HaZikaron impress upon me the unacceptability of continued conflict, rising death tolls and persistent insecurity in Israel. No Israeli parent should have to grieve for their child, and no Israeli child should have to grow up in a world laced with conflict. As former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously said as he worked for peace, “Enough of blood and tears. Enough!” We all yearn for a day when such a vision will be a reality, even as we know that it may not come soon.

However, that does not mean we cannot continue to pursue peace and security for all Israelis. Helping Israel build up its defensive capabilities, through programs such as Iron Dome and David’s Sling, has already saved numerous lives and will continue to do so. Keeping our sights set on a two-state solution will help us see opportunities for long-term security. Hopefully, this will hasten the day when there will be no new names on the Yom Hazikaron lists across the Jewish state.

Feature Image courtesy of Israel Defense Forces, Wikipedia.

Jacob Kraus is the campaign organizer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leading the Reform Movement’s Urgency of Now campaigns for criminal justice reform and immigrant justice. Based at the Union for Reform Judaism offices in New York City, Jacob grew up in Cincinnati, OH, where his family is affiliated with Rockdale Temple. He is a 2015 graduate of Macalester College.

Jacob Kraus

Published: 5/10/2016