With several years of posts behind me on previous Memorial Days, I went back and read them and would like to share them…
I promised myself that I wouldn’t think today, knowing that this Memorial Day, my first as a mother of an Israeli soldier, would be that much more difficult.
Last year, I read the story of what the paratroopers division does to remember their own. The article in the newspaper spoke of how beside the grave of each fallen paratrooper, a soldier in the current paratroopers division stands. The families come and see that their sons have not been forgotten. I couldn’t imagine what goes through the head of that young man, whose job it is to simply stand there, in honor and in mourning. I can’t imagine what the family thinks, seeing this young man stand so proud and straight, beside the grave of their son.
Last year, when I read that article, I didn’t know that the artillery division does the same. I didn’t know that my son would be asked to go and stand beside the grave of a fallen artillery soldier. I don’t know what will go through Elie’s mind as he stands beside that grave. How old will that boy be, that young man who died protecting our country.
Eyal Tsarfati was only 19 years old when he was killed defending Israel. His parents came to his grave today, one of 22,437 families who mourn for their loves ones who died since the State of Israel was founded.
So little, do I know about this young man. He died in 1990 and today, Elie stood by his grave as his family came to pay their respects. Each of Elie’s soldiers was assigned a cemetery and a name and had to call Elie when they arrived. Elie can tell me how many artillery soldiers died during their three years of military service, and how many died while doing reserve duty in the artillery division. By each, a soldier in the artillery division stood today.
I don’t want to project, to imagine, to think. For the last two years, I have told myself that I didn’t have to be cruel to myself; that I was entitled to skip these ceremonies; that the mothers would understand. Maybe they too skipped the ceremonies before their sons were killed fighting for this land.
This is the first time I almost feel strong enough to risk going, dare to listen as the stories are told. I’ll light the memorial candle, as I do each year. I’ll stand and listen to the siren, as I do each year. I’ll think, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just stand there and listen to the siren and pray.
I’m not sure if I ever associated Memorial Day to the concept of fallen soldiers. Certainly, it was a day of pride in America, in democracy, in freedom…but did I ever realize that without our soldiers…we would not have had America, democracy, freedom? I wish I could remember and say I did, but as a child, as a teen, even as a young married woman, I’m not sure.
By contrast, from the start and even before, I always understood that Yom HaZikaron “Day of the Memory” or Memorial Day was clearly connected to the soldiers. It is so different here. The concept of doing a barbecue or visiting friends or a sale in honor of this day is an impossibility to comprehend. There is no celebration – it is a day of agony here; of remembering in pain those we have lost and sharing quietly with those who still suffer.
It is a strange and wonderful thing we do each year as we stop and thank those who gave their lives so that we could live here in this land. We will stand tonight and tomorrow, for those who have fallen. It is the least we can do – and the most. But perhaps in this modern world of hustle and bustle, the greatest thanks we give them is in how we as a society remember them, honor them, and mourn for them.