[Note: This entry was originally written yesterday — Monday, May 9, but couldn’t be published until today.]
Last night at 8:00 p.m. a one-minute siren rang off in all of Eretz Yisrael. Everyone stood, stared straight ahead, remembered, and honoured all of the soldiers — Jewish, Arab, Christian, and the Druze, all fighting in the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] from the time the first Jews left Jerusalem to settle into other parts of the country in 1860, until today, in 2011. Every citizen of Israel has served in the army in some way (except the Haradim, but we won’t go there right now). When a child is born in Israel one of the first thing parents are told from others is, “Mazel Tov, may by the time your child turns 18 they not have to go to war.”
I was standing at the Western Wall as I heard the siren go off yesterday evening. It was there that the official ceremony for the Memorial Day was held. Shimon Peres, the President of Israel spoke, along with the Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz. Representatives of families whose loved ones have died while serving in the IDF, along with soldiers in the IDF were all sitting and/or standing in face of the wall.
On the other side of the fence was myself, along with hundreds, maybe even thousands of others, all standing, bowing their heads in mourning, in honour of heroes — “For the 22,867 servicemen and -women who fell defending the land of Israel since 1860. In the past year, 183 soldiers and security personnel died while serving the state. The figure includes the Prisons Service victims of the Carmel fire.” — jpost
Let’s also not forget about Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been held hostage by Hamas for five years now. A torch was flaming in front of the wall in his honour. Let’s hope he will be home very very soon.
At 11:00 a.m. this morning another two-minute siren rang out across Israel. As I stared out the window of my office I looked down into the street. Just like last week everything and everyone stopped. They stood, they stared, they remembered, and they honoured. Except this week, one thing was different. I noticed one woman who was wearing a keffiyeh. My assumption is she is Arab, and she chose to continue walking and not stand in honour of the fallen soldiers. This siren was not for Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), it is for people that died for this country. It is for people who have died for her country.
It was unfortunate as I was looking out my window, falling into my own state of mind in honouring the soldiers, that I focused on the one woman who wasn’t stopping. Soon she was out of the picture and I could fall into a Zen. It was my own personal moment, I am looking out my window, standing there, alone. But this one, small moment, captured the bigger picture. That Israel is a country at war. And every citizen here knows that when they turn 18 years of age they will serve their country, and take a risk in dying in defending others. Defending people like me. And then there is the other side of the war, people like this woman, who chose to continue walking through the loud siren, not honouring people who are/have been risking their lives, for her.
As I was walking out of my office, and up Ben Yehuda, one of the busiest streets in Jerusalem, the mood was sombre. People were out, doing what they do on a normal Monday, but there wasn’t as much noise from people talking and hustling and bustling around the city streets. Tonight that mood will change. Tonight I will start celebrating, along with everyone else in Israel, the celebration of the state of Israel. Eretz Yisrael’s 63rd birthday begins at sundown and I can not wait until I can make a birthday wish for this country. As the old adage goes, if I tell you my wish it won’t come true. But I have a hunch that you won’t have to think to hard to figure out what that wish may be.