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
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