4/21/15 Yom Hazikaron

by Marc Schulman

It is now Memorial Day in Israel. The collective sadness that this day evokes is hard to quantify. Last week we commemorated Yom HaShoah, and while that is a very sad day, it is beginning to become a historic event, tied to our past. Yom Hazikaron is very real and very raw – especially this year, after last summer’s war. Israel memorializes its more than 23,000 dead and collectively mourns with its over 16,000 families who have lost what is most precious of all.

This was the fourth year in a row that I have gone to Kikar Rabin to participate in a uniquely Israeli memorial. The annual commemoration starts with a broadcast of the Memorial ceremony from the Kotel, beginning with a collective minute of silence. President Rivlin delivered an excellent and moving speech. At the end of the 45 minute ceremony at the Kotel, the eyes of the country switch to the square where a series of singers sing sad songs of longing and mourning. Before each song a 2 minute video is screened focusing on a different solider who was killed in action. In the previous years, all of the stories had been about soldiers who died some years ago; some soldiers’ stories went all the way back to the Six Day War. Tonight, all of the highlighted soldiers had died this past summer during Operation Protective Edge. For those talking about their sons and husbands the wounds that will never really heal are still profoundly raw; and for the crowd of tens of thousands in the square who were quiet and respectful throughout, there were the constant unsaid words – there but for the grace of God, that could have been me.

Tomorrow, as the night turns into day, I will write an upbeat piece for Newsweek.