Yom Hazikaron

This week was a week of more ups and downs for the Jewish people. As our community began picking up the pieces from the devastating attack on Chabad of Poway, our brothers and sisters in Israel went through yet another series of traumatic attacks from terrorists in Gaza. With over 700 rockets fired into Israel in just over 36 hours, and 4 killed, our contacts in the mayor’s office in Sha’ar Hanegev shared with me the following, “Michael, the people can’t breathe. Something has to happen to stop this in the future.” These painful words paint a picture of desperation, trauma, and sadness. And yet, the resolve, strength, and resiliency of our Israeli family continues to be a source of inspiration.  
The Mayor of Sha’ar HaNegev, Ofir Libstein, wrote the following in a letter to our community: “We are proud of our strong community. The people of Sha'ar HaNegev are showing admirable behavior, following the defense guidelines and staying close to shelters. One of our greatest strengths is the ability to accept a variety of personal ways to cope.”
Living under constant threat of terror attacks is something most of us simply cannot understand. We were happy to learn of the latest cease-fire and hope for continued calm and an ultimate resolution that will bring peace to the region.  
On the heels of a difficult weekend, Jewish communities around the world acknowledged two important Jewish holidays in Israel. Tuesday night marked the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, a day to remember victims of terror as well as the more than 23,000 fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our Jewish homeland. For more than 20 years, our community has been blessed with a group of dedicated volunteers who have organized a Yom Hazikaron ceremony. I was so grateful to have the opportunity and share a few words at this year's event at the JCC.
Below are my reflections as we began the 2-day period that acknowledge some of our people’s greatest sacrifices followed by a day that marks the ultimate national celebration. Going from a moment of sadness to joy is such a Jewish thing to do, isn’t it?  I’m proud of our community’s resiliency in the aftermath of Poway.  And I’m proud of our Jewish people’s historic ability to move from despair to hope. The events of the last few weeks have done more to remind us of this dynamic tension that seems simply to be a part of who we are as a Jewish people.   
I have been reflecting on how last week we observed Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), reminding us of the price of not having a Jewish State. This week, tonight, we observe Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day), reminding us of the price of having one.  These words were inspired by comments made by a colleague of mine, Dov Ben-Shimon, who leads a Jewish Federation in Northern New Jersey.  
Tonight, we stand together to remember the more than 23,000 Israeli fallen soldiers and the more than 3,000 victims of terror.  As we go into the double days of Israel’s Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut, I also reflect on the meaning and juxtaposition of these two holidays – one representing the ultimate sadness of a people, the second, the ultimate national joy.
I am proud that we are standing together as a community to mark this solemn day.  We do so on the heels of a terror attack in our own community that extinguished the life of Lori Kaye, just 6 months after the massacre of 11 Jewish souls in Pittsburgh. Sadly, the all too familiar barrage of rocket attacks and terror launched against our brothers and sisters in Israel this past weekend makes tonight all the more meaningful.  
Today’s Yom HaZikaron ceremony in Latrun was a haunting and beautiful tribute.  As on Yom HaShoah, air raid sirens are sounded twice in Israel during Yom HaZikaron, during which time the entire country comes to a complete stop.  The sounds pierce through the sky throughout our Jewish homeland while cars pull over, while drivers and pedestrians stand silently in a demonstration of ACHDUT, or solidarity, mourning and respect.   
Among the more than 23,000 fallen soldiers and security forces killed either during or as a result of combat protecting Israel, some 56 soldiers were added to the list last year.  Another 40 IDF veterans who died as a result of disabilities and injuries over the past year were also added to the list. 
Among the more than 3,000 civilian victims of terror, 12 were murdered by terrorists last year.  The numbers are simply staggering. And heartbreaking.  And, sadly, growing.  This past weekend alone, four innocent Israelis were killed by indiscriminate rocket attacks by the terrorists in Gaza.  We add these names to our prayers, as we remember:
Moshe Agadi, 58 years old, father of 4
Moshe Feder, 47 years old, father of 7
Ziad El- Hamamde, 68 years old, father of 3
Pinchas Pshuzman, 21 years old, father to a newborn 
Zichronam Livracha – May their memories be a blessing!
While the struggle for Israel’s independence and survival continues to this day, I’m proud that our community stands together tonight, and always.  We stand with all victims of terror and those who have lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers.  We stand with our family in Sha’ar HaNegev, San Diego’s partnership region, which is among the Israeli communities on the front lines of today’s fight.  
Tonight, may Jewish people everywhere stand together in appreciation of all the soldiers of the IDF and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the state of Israel. These heroes, GIBORIM, are in our hearts and prayers. For those in mourning today, may their families be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 
Last week, we observed Yom HaShoah, reminding us of the price of not having a Jewish State. This week, tonight, we observe Yom HaZikaron, reminding us of the price of having one.
בשבוע שעבר ציינו את יום השואה, שהמחיש לנו את המחיר של להיות עם ללא מדינה. הערב אנחנו מציינים את יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ונפגעי הטרור, שממחיש  לנו את מחיר קיומה של מדינת ישראל.



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