Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day in Israel

Today we remember thousands of soldiers, police officers and civilians
who have been killed in Israel's  years of constant violent struggle.

In Israel, everyone knows and loves someone who was killed in the military or in terrorist attacks. 
This is a country marked by war, loss, and consistent threat of inhalation.

Israel lost 10% of its population in the first year of and a half of its existence and continues to lose soldiers in battle, police officers on the streets, and men, women and children to terrorism. 

The mall where I buy my clothes was the target of multiple terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing that was caught on film. I pass at least five memorials when I go to work. My family and friends and acquaintances bear the shadows of this loss - of glowing young people killed in wars, of fathers on front lines missing their child's birth, of missing family members.

In tribute, we stand for two minutes in silence in the evening, and another two in the morning on Memorial Day. The radios play songs of loss, the tears of a nation that knows all too well the pain of conscripting the vast majority of its young people. 

There is a beautifully mournful poem about the sacrifice of life written by Natan Alterman. I have posted it below. When I look at our soldiers the poem echoes in my ears. This is the Silver Platter upon which the State of Israel is given.

The Silver Platter

Translator: David P. Stern

…And the land will grow still
Crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again
Over smoking frontiers
As the nation stands up
Torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder
In two thousand years

As the moment draws near
It will rise, darkness facing Stand straight in the moonlight In terror and joy

...When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing In plain sight of all A young girl and a boy
Dressed in battle gear, dirty
Shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will climb up
While their lips remain sealed
To change garb, to wipe brow
They have not yet found time Still bone weary from days And from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue
And all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth
Is still seen on their head
Thus like statues they stand
Stiff and still with no motion And no sign that will show If they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears
And amazed at this matter Will ask: who are you? And the two will then say
With soft voice: We--
Are the silver platter On which the Jews' state Was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness
As the dazed nation looks And the rest can be found In the history books.