Sunday, May 8, 2011

A difficult day

Today I did some grocery shopping and popped into my local greengrocer for veggies. He was on edge and pretty grumpy, but greeted me sweetly as usual. He likes to practice his English on me and I insist on speaking Hebrew to him. He was snapping back at other customers though, so I knew something was up.

As he was ringing up my purchases, I commented that it seemed that he was having a difficult day and he agreed. He said that it's an especially difficult day.

Tonight is the beginning of IDF Memorial Day. It's not like Memorial Day in the States. It is a solemn day of remembrance directly preceding Israeli Independence Day. People visit the military cemeteries and there are ceremonies. Bear in mind that every generation of Israelis have served in at least one major war or armed conflict. My grandfather fought in the 1948 War of Independence and lost his brother in it. Then there was the 1956 Suez Crisis, 1967 Six Day War, the War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War (especially difficult at Israel was caught by surprise - my mother's classmates fought in this war as officers), the 1982 Lebanon War, the First and Second Intifadas, the 2006 Lebanon War as well as on-going operations in Gaza and the West Bank.
Men who are my age fought in the Lebanon War and served in the Gaza and the West Bank.

My sweet greengrocer was thinking about his fallen comrades on a day when everyone is planning and preparing for the happiest Israeli holiday - Independence Day. He said that it is especially difficult for him when people wish him a "Chag Sameach" - a happy holiday.

And so, restaurants, cafes, cinemas etc will be closed. The sirens will sound at 8:00 pm tonight and 11:00 am tomorrow for moments of silence. This is a day of communal grief, much like Yom HaShoah for the Holocaust.

This is a poem that is said at the Yom HaZikaron ceremonies in Israel. Chaim Weizmann (the first president of Israel) said that the State of Israel will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter. This poem refers to the soldiers of the IDF as the silver platter upon which the state is given.

The Silver Platter
Natan Alterman

And the land grows still, the red eye of the sky  slowly dimming over smoking frontiers

As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle

As the ceremony draws near,  it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy

When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march toward the nation

Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly

To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth. Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death 

Then a nation in tears and amazement
will ask: "Who are you?"
And they will answer quietly, "We are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given."

Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel

I wish everyone a meaningful day to commemorate all of our friends and family that have been killed in the wars and terrorism that have been near-constant in this country. We recognize and honor their sacrifice, and pray that soon we will live in peace and security.


Tamar said...

Your blogs are so insightful and meaningful. In some ways I feel you touching places in my heart that have almost become dormant since living in the States.
The poem you quoted is one of the most beautiful ones which I have read at so many Yom Hazikaron ceremonies in my life.
I hope you stay connected -

YGirl said...

Thank you, Ema! It is a very moving time to be in Israel and I can't wait to see you!