Visiting and storytelling at Har Herzl on Israel’s Memorial Day

A colleague who visits children of friends and neighbors, acquaintances and others at Har Herzl every year invited some of us to join him today on Israeli Memorial Day. I had never been there on Yom HaZicaron itself, so the experience was new.

There’s a lot to see and hear. High school students. Scouts. Foreign students. Next generation soldiers. Career soldiers.

And family, family, and more family.

We’re getting to the point where there aren’t going to be many people left who remember fighting in 1948. Their gravesites are slightly less occupied by visitors.

I had never really given much thought to the last olim pre-independence; they escaped from Hitler’s Europe, came off the boats in 1947, and stepped straight into ‘uniform’. And of course, many many fell in 1948, fighting for the right to freedom they had lacked only a year before:

Below, this Nissim was a runner for the Jewish army, based in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948 – locked in and fighting to bridge the sides.

He was show by an enemy sniper, who found a hole in the sandbags – shot right in his own home.

He was also ten years old.

In this pool rest the memories of 140 soldiers who fell to the sea.

And then – this happened.

Mrs. Aharoni comes every year to visit her brother-in-law’s grave. He fell in 1948. She worries about who will visit when she’s gone.

My colleague met her here one year; he had brought his son to show him who came before him in fighting for this land; they asked her for her story. And promised to visit Yehuda Aharoni’s grave every year, so she wouldn’t have to worry that no one would come after her. He started coming ever since.

Last year she didn’t show and he assumed, perhaps, the worst.

As we started walking from the site, we saw a woman being lifted in her wheelchair towards our direction.

Mrs. Aharoni appeared. And my colleague was there. And so were we. So now we’ve heard her story from her.

And we are here, too.

 

The state of Israel in 5758.

This is the time of year when the State of Israel has a chance to really look deep into the heart of herself and understand what condition she’s in. It’s the post-Pessach triangle of introspection: yesterday was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and next week are Yom HaZicaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day).

When I was younger, and full of the enthusiasm and energy of Herzl’s Zionism, this triangle was one of my favorite times of the year. Yom HaShoah was the day to remember why we need a state; Yom HaZicaron was the day to remember how we’ve managed to defend the state; Yom Haatzmaut was the day to celebrate how we will continue to flourish in this state.

That was, of course, before I lived in Israel.

The state of the Jewish State is bleak. Actually, it’s quite depressing. I’m tired of hearing all those wonderful accomplishments and inventions done by Israelis; It’s not moving me anymore to see pictures of young European Jews building the kibbutzim. Those are still wonderful things, to be sure. And I do get still get teary-eyed when I sing the words to Hatikvah. But pardon me if I think there are other things we need to go back to focusing on.

On Yom HaShoah I read that Holocaust survivors’ situation is worsening. I wonder why the elderly who starved under German torture are starving under the Israeli government? How are we going to continue keeping our kids’ interested in this piece of Jewish history when we can be so nonchalant towards our grandparents, who are all nearly dead? How are we going to survive ourselves?

On Yom HaZicaron I wonder what our 18-year-old soldiers are really getting killed for. Do the sirens move Ehud Omert? When he is standing with his arms behind his back, eyes low, is he thinking about the soldiers ‘ blood or border security? Is he thinking about how embarrassing it is for us to have him as a prime minister? What is the long-term plan here? How are we going to manage to stay here in Israel? Who will fight our wars in the next 20 years?

And, finally, Yom Haatzmaut this year: turning 60. I’m having a hard time understanding why this number is worth going into debt, pouring millions and millions of shekels into frivolous parties instead of working on social programs in the State’s honor to show off the good soul of the Jewish State. I’m wondering why the government is busy making sure that no one uses the Israel 60th birthday logo without permission instead of worrying over the fact that most non-immigrant Israelis I speak to are completely disenchanted with Independence Day this year. Why celebrate a lie? Why celebrate debt?

Why celebrate the state of the State of Israel this year?

Ynet's perception of Israeli soldiers on Facebook: Naked.

I gave away the punch line in the title, but there ain’t much more to say than that. Here’s the headline of a Ynet news article from today:

Classified info exposed on Facebook

Basically, some members of the Israeli security establishment were caught with photos of classified soldiers and locations exposed on their Facebook accounts. But what interests me more – aside from the stupidity of the Israeli security establishment – is Ynet’s perception of Israeli soldiers surfing the web:

Israeli soldier naked on Facebook

Is Ynet so desperate for female readership?

Coming to Israel this winter?

I find that lots of people – students or not – desire to volunteer on a day-trip basis when they come a-visiting, so I’m sharing the following:

Standing Together – the organization that sells us the Sderot challot every week – has an initiative set up for tourists to Israel this next month:

This winter, visitors to Israel are invited to share their warmth and gratitude with the soldiers guarding our Holyland 24/7. Standing Together hopes you will join us to distribute hot coffee and pizza to these young men and women who are working so hard and standing outside in the cold. Thousands of Israeli soldiers are protecting the Jewish homeland and they deserve appreciation and recognition from Jews worldwide. Call David Landau, director at 050-558-0822 or email info@stogether.org to set an appointment.

They are also organizing a group trip on January 23rd.

*Nudge* The kidnapped soldiers have not been returned.

It’s a year and a half later, and the three kidnapped soldiers from summer 2006 – Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit have not been returned to us.

The Keren Maor Foundation was founded to assist and support the families of these three soldiers, and to raise awareness until they are brought home from their current Hezbollah and Hamas prisons.

They have declared January 2nd to be a day dedicated to reminding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that it is the government’s responsibility to bring back our captured brothers. In the letter below, the foundation asks citizens of Israel to send emails/letters/faxes on that date.

eulmert@knesset.gov.il

Kaplan 3, Jerusalem 91919

02-6546717

If you’d like to contact the organization, be in touch with Ilan Specter, 0524714025 or ilan-ss@nana.co.il. The foundation accepts donations here.

Protest for the Kidnapped Soldiers

Soldiers are not cookies!

The first time I saw this one, it was Cookie Monster that caught my eye, of course. But the phrasing below His Munchiness is anything but yummy:

cookie monster soldiers

 “Soldiers are not cookies.”

No, they are not. You can’t consume your own 18-21 year-old population like Cookie Monster devours his cookies. They are also not trash, that you can just dispose of carelessly; Oscar would be very grouchy about that.

Won’t you tell me how to get, how to get to security and peace?