At 8:00pm tonight the nation came to a standstill for the second time in a week. The siren blared signalling the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for our sons and daughters who have fallen in defense of our country and those civilians whose lives were snuffed out by terrorists. There are no big sales, in fact restaurants and shops are closed. This is as a solemn day as there is on the Israeli calendar. Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av (commemorating the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash-the Holy Temple) are sad days on the calendar, but they are religious holidays and for many, even religious people, they don’t hit quite as close to home and many struggle to connect. Unfortunately, most of the country doesn’t have that problem of connection on Yom HaZikaron. Almost everyone, from the newest immigrant to the family who has been here for generations is someohow directly linked to someone who has lost their life either through war or terror in the 58 years since the country was founded. This fact is illustrated by my experience at tonight’s 8:30pm Maariv minyan. Usually there are 30-50 people at this minyan (there is also one earlier and one later minyan which attract even more people), but tonight there were 13. It immediately occured to me that everyone else must be at some type of ceremony or commemoration, either public or private, to remember Israel’s fallen. In many cases the memorial is too close to home–a father, brother, cousin or best friend from the army.
It was almost exactly three months ago that Yoseph Goodman fell to his early death and we ‘joined’ a group that we would have been happy to avoid. On days like today there are names that pop into our heads as we remember the martyrs of Israel–Yoseph Goodman, Koby Mandell & Yosef Ishran, Yehuda Shoham, Tsachi Sasson, Dr. David Applebaum and, unfortunately many others. Today, I add another name to the list, Alex Singer.
Alex died on his birthday, September 15, 1981 when he was killed by terrorists in South Lebanon. An article appeared in today’s Jerusalem Post which you can read here. His family just launched a website, www.alexsinger.org to continue to use Alex’s life to educate and inpsire others. I think grasping Yom HaZikaron and giving it meaning (especially for those who aren’t in Israel) is made easier by personalizing the day through learning about one of our heroes. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read a little about Alex or any other hero of Israel.
Alex wrote to his brother Saul (a Jerusalem Post columnist) a few months before his death: