The full name of Yom HaZikaron – Israeli Memorial Day – is “Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.” What began as a time to remember Israeli soldiers killed in the line of duty later expanded to remember victims of terrorism as well, and as of today, there have been 23,741 fallen Israeli soldiers and 3,150 Israelis killed in acts of terror. Parents, children, grandparents, siblings, best friends – all beloved.
But we know that the circles of tragedy and grief connected to Israel and Palestine extend far beyond our Jewish brothers and sisters.
Last night, for the 14th year in a row, thousands of people gathered in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv for the joint Israeli-Palestinian Yom HaZikaron Memorial Ceremony, to remember the thousands of lives, Israeli and Palestinian, lost through war, acts of terror, and violence. Adults and children shared letters and tributes to the loved ones that they’ve lost, like Avraham Rahamim z”l, who was killed in the Six Day War. His son Yuval shared:
“The hole that suddenly opened up in our lives will never be filled. The wound will continue to bleed until the end of our lives, to rip our families, and even to pass from generation to generation.”
And Mohammed, 14 years old, who lost his good friend Abed while playing outside their school from a bullet fired by soldiers, shared, “I know that in this cursed conflict filled with hatred and envy, no one is an exception and no one is spared or shown mercy, not even innocent children. My friend Abed al-Rahman – One bullet ended 12 years of friendship, laughter, games. I promise you that I am telling about your death in order to bring humanity back to the path of life, and in recent years I have chosen to commemorate you by means of activities for peace.”
The mere existence of this joint memorial ceremony is highly controversial, and its critics accuse it of legitimizing terrorism and “equating Israel’s fallen soldiers and those who attacked them. But supporters insist it represents an effort by those who have lost the most in the conflict to give meaning to the deaths of their loved ones by turning away from violence.”
At the end of the ceremony, a group sang a haunting rendition of Chad Gadya, the melody from the end of the Passover seder that goes “…then came the dog that bit the cat that ate the little goat my father bought for two zuzim, chad gadya, chad gadya…” but this time, with a different ending:
“On all other nights, on all other nights, only four questions did I ask. Tonight I have one question more: How much longer will this circle of horror endure? Victor and victim, beater and beaten, pursuer and pursued, when will this madness ever end?”
We encourage you to watch the entire ceremony (the song begins at 1:22).
Friday night, at Mishkan, we will be welcoming guest speakers, Dr. Thabet Abu Rass and Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu, who are the co-executive directors of the Abraham Initiatives, a nonprofit agency working to build and strengthen a shared society between Jewish and Arab Israelis and charting a way forward for the coexistence, peace and security of all peoples. We hope you’ll join us.