by Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, Executive Director of Masorti Olami & MERCAZ Olami
Today is Yom Hazikron in Israel. The entire country is spending the day remembering fallen Israeli soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we can live in this country, along with remembering those who are victims of terrorism.
This morning my wife and I dressed our kids in Kachol Ve'Lavan (blue & white) clothes - plain blue pants and a plain white shirt. That's how all the kids were dressed in their Gan (pre-school) this morning; so were the Gananot (pre-school teachers); so was everyone at work. No one told us to do so, we already know.
My 4 year old daughter was a bit confused though; she thought that Yom Hazikaron was last week when we commemorated Yom Ha'Shoah. On Yom Ha'Shoah she mixed up Pharoah, with Haman and Hitler so I sat down with all my children and explained the differences between these important characters in our history. But in essence for them it's all the same - it's all about remembering.
In Judaism remembering is the essence of our religion. We never forget what happened to us in the past, and for better or worse, we build a future based on how we remember our past.
On Yom Hazikaron for the fallen soldiers, and on Yom Hazikaron for the Shoah, we commemorate modern events that happened to our people as a nation. On these memorial days, which have become permanent fixtures on the Jewish calendar, we participate in modern ceremonies which are equal in significance to those of our more traditional religious holidays like the Seder at Pesach, or reading the Megillah at Purim. We do this to give structure to the memorial nature of these events, and so that we can transfer the message of memory to the next generation. Today's ceremonies included traditional religious practice for both mourning and thanks, in what is essentially a secular setting. We say a special Kaddish and the full Hallel prayers, praising God for the lives of our fellow Jews, and for the miracle of Jewish Independence.
Tonight, as we start celebrating Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, we will remember the past 62 years of building the Jewish state; a state where we are sovereign, and where we determine our own destiny. Diaspora Jews too, will join us to celebrate in celebrating the anniversary of the Jewish State which is theirs as much as anyones - Medinat Ha'Yehudim. Diaspora Jewry is also remembering today that without the State of Israel the lives of Jews all around the world would be completely different. Judaism itself is more vibrant and enriched today because we Jews have been able to return to our land and establish our own state.
Believing in the importance of the Jewish state, and celebrating its birthday, is one definition of what it means to be a Zionist.
In remembrance of all the fallen Israeli soldiers,
and wishing you a Yom Ha'Atzma'ut Sameach,