Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yom Hazikaron in New Jersey

Israel is now commemorating Yom Hazikaron, a day of remembrance.  It's a solemn day that begins with sirens throughout the country calling the nation to stand at attention for 2 minutes in remembrance of Israel's war dead and victims of terror.

Our local Jewish federation, UJC of MetroWest, New Jersey, held its annual Yom Hazikaron last night.  It was a program that combined a mixture of song, prayer, poems and reflection, to make a meaningful evening.

As the father of a terror victim, Alisa Flatow, I was asked to say a few words.  I called my remarks, "A Father Reflects."  Here they are:

20 years ago the words Yom Hazikaron would have been unknown to American Jews. Today, due to the experience of American families shared in common with Israelis 6,000 miles away, Yom Hazikaron has a place on our calendar, too.

Over the past 20 years, unprecedented numbers of young and not so young Americans have travelled to Israel to study, to tour, and volunteer in the IDF. Some go for as little as a week, others for 10 month programs at yeshivot and universities, and others for longer periods. Some decide to stay.

They ride the buses; they go the same resorts, restaurants, theaters and museums as Israelis. They learn the language or brush-up on the intricacies of dik-duk. They learn the bus system.

They learn that yehi b’seder is not just a way to brush off a problem but a core belief that no matter how dark they are now things will work out for the better.

Most importantly, they learn daily what it means to be a member of an ancient people made modern in the past 100 years.

Sometimes they pay the ultimate price for being in Israel—they die. But whether the victim is a Michael Levin, a lone soldier from Pennsylvania, or a Joan Devanney, a teacher spending a year on a special program for Jewish educators; or a Marla Bennett or Ben Blutstein, studying at Hebrew University, or an Alisa Flatow, studying the texts that make Jews what we are, their families never blame them for being in Israel as the cause of their loss.

And while we may tempted to blame their loss on being in the wrong place at the wrong time, we know in our hearts that because our daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nephews and cousins were living a dream, in the land they loved, among the people they loved, they were in the right place.
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