Today is Yom Hazikaron, a day on which we remember all those who have given their lives for the state of Israel. It is a somber day, as in a country as young as Israel almost everyone has felt a loss in some way. At 11AM this morning, we all stood at attention as the siren blared. During the two minutes that we stood at attention, I had a chance to think about what we could learn from a day like Yom Hazikaron.
While growing up in the US, the army was not a central part of our lives. The normal Memorial Day activity was usually a BBQ followed by the big sale at Macy’s. While the day’s name may have suggested a somber and important day, the reality was that it became just another day off. Perhaps those US citizens with connections to the armed forces have a different experience, but they would be in the minority in most communities.
Here in Israel, we can all feel the seriousness of Yom Hazikaron. Many of us have friends who lost someone. Some of us identify by realizing that it was the fallen who made it possible for us to live in Israel today. When the siren started at 11AM this morning, it was obvious from looking up and down the street that everyone was in this together.
As we move forward and get ready to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s birthday, let us remember that it is often the real life instances that make the best educational moments. Earlier this week, Tomorrow’s Genius facilitated a program at a school in New Jersey. The school asked if it would be possible to have two Israeli soldiers speak to some of the students to share their stories and to discuss the importance of Yom Hazikaron. The session was amazingly successful, and the soldiers shared some difficult personal moments. But, in the end, the students did not quite understand what it meant to have an entire day dedicated to remembering those who died for the state of Israel. There was nothing to which they could compare the day in the United States.
Perhaps, if these students had stood at attention during the siren and had looked around at all of the regular people who had been affected, they would have been able to identify better.
Today we move from mourning the fallen soldiers to a celebration of Israel and its people. Let us learn from our past, so that we can create a better future.