A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
April 25, 2012-Yom HaZikaron in Israel
It's Yom HaZikaron in Israel, the day the memories of the 22,993 soldiers and civilians killed in Israel wars are remembered. Yom Hazikaron comes one week after Yom Hashoa. While both these days are memorialized in similar ways, today seemed different, more earnest, more immediate. This afternoon resturaunts began closing. By this evening there was not a store, not a restaurant, not a Kiosk open anywhere in sight in central Tel Aviv.
Tonight we went to Rabin Square to attend an annual commemoration, known as "Singing in the Square". This event that has been taking place in Tel Aviv now for 15 years. As Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai stated: "Through these songs sung together, Tel Aviv, the cradle of modern Zionism has added this new set of Piyyutim (liturgical poems), as part of our tradition, as part of how we memorialize the fallen. "
By 45 minutes before the ceremony was to begin, the square was already nearly full. When the two-minute siren that marks the beginning of Yom Hazikaron was sounded the tens of thousands of people in the square stood in complete and total silence. 45 minutes later the actual ceremony began. By then, nearly 100,000 had packed the square and the area immediately around it. The event alternated from poems written by or written about fallen soldiers, interspersed with video footage of their families telling vignettes sharing part of their life story. Between each soldier's story there was a sad song sung by one of Israel's leading artists in honor of the fallen. Other than the occasional whispered singing along of the songs by the audience, silence was the order of the night, throughout this crowd of 100,000 people.
This event and the stories were moving well beyond my abilities as a wordsmith. It will have to suffice to say that sharing the event with a crowd, made up mostly of my fellow citizens of Tel Aviv, was an honor. Never has the chasm between Israel and diaspora Jewry seemed so large.