One of the most fascinating phenomena in the world is taking place this week in Israel. Two state holidays take place this week, and the juxtaposition never fails to amaze me.
Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day
Last night at sundown, Israel marked the start of Yom HaZikaron. Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s memorial day for lost soldiers. In the United States, Memorial Day is generally set aside for barbeques, an afternoon with the family, and, most importantly, the day swimming pools and amusement parks open for the summer.
In Israel, Yom HaZikaron is a very serious day. People are often quiet and somber reflecting on the recent and current challenges facing the country’s existence. Everyone knows a family that lost someone during one of Israel’s many wars. The country is thinking of Gilad Shalit, still held captive by Hamas terrorists.
Only a few years ago, Israel had a war in Lebanon. No one knows when the next one will begin, but it seems inevitable that Israel will again have to defend itself from Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, a growing threat in Egypt, or the daily rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza.
Yom Ha’atzmaout – Independence Day
As the sun sets tonight, the tears will be replaced with cheers. At sundown, Israel celebrates its 63rd birthday. Again, this is celebrated with more excitement than in the United States. Outside of the first 4th of July after the September 11th attacks, I rarely see the gusto for American independence that I do in Israel.
There could be many reasons for this. The biggest, I am sure, is that no one today was alive during the United States war for independence from the British. Many Israelis remember the 1948 war that created an official Jewish homeland. And while the United States has been attacked in our lifetimes, it is not struggling to remain independent. Israel is struggling every day.
Israel’s Ability to Overcome Adversity
Just ten years ago, terrorist attacks were a daily concern in Israel’s largest cities. Today, Southern Israel is pounded by terrorist rockets and mortars daily. Just five years ago, Northern Israel took a rocket assault from Hezbollah dropped about 4,000 rockets over thirty three days.
No part of Israel has been immune to terrorism. No corner has been left completely unharmed.
But at the end of the day, Israelis bounce back in a way that is not comprehendible to most Western nations. Within hours sites are cleaned up. Within days stores reopen. Israel makes a statement that it will not be scared off by terrorists.
So when the sun goes down tonight, take a few minutes to reflect on the thousands of Israelis who have died in the name of freedom and security for the Jewish people, then take a day to celebrate its continued existence and the wonderful impact Israel has had on the world.
Bonus: For the first time ever, I am releasing a song for free that I wrote about Israelis overcoming terrorism. You can hear it now courtesy of the Heebs with Chustpa. If you like it, please consider buying the CD for only $5 at HWChet.com.
Photo by RonAlmog.