And it begins.
I see my Facebook feed slowly slowly starting to change today, as friends post memorials for their brothers, fathers, and friends who have fallen in action; who have been killed in terror attacks. And I know that by tonight, my entire feed will be filled with these stories, and my heart will be overflowing with them as the tears fall.
Tonight and tomorrow are the hardest day of the year in Israel each and every year. It’s Memorial Day and everyone – and I mean everyone – has someone to remember. A few videos have popped up in the last day and I’ve sat and watched them, and remembered.
The war from last summer, Operation Protective Edge, feels far away. But the videos bring it all right back. The horror of the boys’ kidnappings, the 18 days of waiting, the entry into Gaza, the chance that any of my neighbors might lose their sons, the long nights, the scary days, the bombs and on and on and on. I watched this video, made to remember the three boys Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, and I thought I would be sick – physically sick.
There is footage here of them dancing, singing, laughing with family and friends. They are my boys. They look just like Matan.
And a new video has just been released that focuses on the siblings – those left behind when the 67 soldiers fell last summer. It’s also a tear-jerker.
And my first grader comes home from school to tell me that his teacher lost her brother years ago. Did I know? My third grader (who had the same teacher for two years) jumps in and tells the lengthy, detailed story of his death. Because that’s how we remember.
Josh and I were being interviewed recently (for reasons I’ll explain in a few days), and I was telling a story of how we ended up in Neve Daniel. I described how we came in 2001, in the middle of the Intifada, to show solidarity to our friends – to be here with them in Neve Daniel.
The interviewer turned to me, incredulous, and said, “And that’s why you came to live here? People will think you’re crazy.” He wasn’t taunting me – he knew exactly what my answer would be, but he wanted to hear it from me.
I had to pause and chuckle slightly. “Yes. That’s when we started to think of coming. Because look – if we believe that the State of Israel should exist, then who are we to sit on the sidelines? Who are we to say we’ll have our kids in America and stay in the comfort of our homes, while your children and your brothers protect us?”
Really, who are we?
I remember feeling this way every time that I would visit Israel. Soldiers are everywhere here – defending our right to exist. And who am I to believe wholeheartedly in the country’s right to defend itself and to exist – but not believing that my boys have to be part of that?
We aren’t special. Our lives aren’t more important than those of every Israeli who gets up every morning and keeps working towards the safety and security of this country.
And by putting our lot with them, by being part of this incredible unimaginable dream that is the State of Israel, we become profoundly important.
Tonight and tomorrow are times of tears and memory. We’ve added 67 IDF soldiers and officers to our list since last Memorial Day who fell during Operational Protective Edge. We’ve added Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We’ve added Dahlia Lemkus. We’ve added so many.
So we will mourn, and cry out in anguish. And then, on the backs of their memories, tomorrow night, we will celebrate and watch my 7th grader in the annual Daglanute (Flag Dance).
And we will cry afresh – but they will be tears of hope and joy, of promise and future.
And the two days are inseparable. We are only able to have the privilege of the hope and joy, the promise and future because of those who have died defending our existence; because of those who have died waiting for a ride to go see their parents and because of those who have died simply for the fact that they are Jewish and Israeli. And we also remember those who, thankfully, didn’t die. But who struggle every day as they work to heal their broken bodies.
Am Israeli Chai.
We will celebrate.
But first, the tears.