Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yom Hazikaron

Last year I didn't post about my experiences; I later posted a poem, which I've linked to here.

American Memorial Day didn't mean much to me beyond sales and a day for BBQs. Now that I think about it, I'm sure it meant much more to my Grandpa and Zaidy (and maybe also my grandmothers) who knew people who fought and died in the wars of America. I'm sure that if I went to Arlington, or any other military cemetery, I would feel it more; I would recognize the day for what it was intended to be. But I never did. I didn't feel it in America; I don't know if I would if I went back.

When I was growing up, Israeli Memorial Day was always observed in school, but I never really made the connection of Memorial Day being right before Independence Day, really impressing the significance. People DIED-- DIED-- so that there could be an Israel. Somehow...I never really felt the "people DIED so that there could be an America." Here...everyone who was killed was a friend or relative of a friend or a friend of a friend. I would be surprised if there was more than 2 degrees of separation between someone who was killed and anyone walking around Israel's so close for everyone.

Last year I and another ulpan student were invited to carry a wreath for Natan Sharansky as he placed a wreath at the memorial ceremony for victims of terror. It was surreal, as I was walking to the ceremony and during, listening, and after, walking around Har felt like a memorial day, a day to remember. The night before I went to a ceremony with Elinor and Aryeh and on the way there was the tzfira, the 1-minute siren that marks the start of Memorial Day in Israel. Aryeh stopped the car, we got out, and stood. Remembering, reflecting, thinking, and paying respect to those who died for Israel.

There's also this...interesting (?) thing-- I don't know the right word for it. It's...kind of like a large-scale kumsitz. It's called "shira b'tzibur"-- "singing in a congregation" where there are songs put up on a screen, like in karaoke, and everyone sings together. They are old songs, traditional Israeli, war songs, hopeful songs, sad songs...and they are songs that are part of the culture here. And this shira b'tzibur is very...customary (?) on Yom Hazikaron and random other times. Everyone is sitting together, usually on mats on the floor or chairs in front of the screen and everyone sings together. Sometimes there are instruments, sometimes not. But it's amazing; it's just everyone sitting together and singing, being a group.

You feel a heaviness in the atmosphere here-- the country is in mourning, and you feel it. It's like when somebody you know dies and the world should stop and you're walking around in a haze because everything feels so thick. Except in this case, the whole country does stop, because everybody is thinking about somebody.

1 comment:

  1. You really capture my thoughts in this one. Beautifully written. Thanks.