Tonight is erev Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror. (For the non-Jews: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the evening before – erev means the ‘eve of’ – and last until sundown of that day, and modern Israeli holidays do the same.) It is, unsurprisingly, a deeply solemn day. In its honour, I’m printing a speech delivered to a group of people including Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Miriam Ziv, last Yom HaZikaron, by Mitchell Bellman, the CEO of Ottawa’s Jewish Federation (and, more importantly, my husband):
More often than not, I find myself in Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, participating in a community mission. A few years ago, someone spoke to an Ottawa group about the significance of Yom HaZikaron. He said that if you asked his grandparents what the saddest day of the year was, they would probably have said Yom Kippur or Tisha Ba’Av. But, the speaker told us, if you asked modern-day Israelis, they would all say Yom HaZikaron.
It is difficult for Jews in Canada to appreciate the significance of Yom HaZikaron without witnessing it in Israel – to hear the sirens and see the traffic stop, to watch the streams of people visiting cemeteries, to walk through schools and see the pictures of former students, whose lives were taken far too soon. To see the pain the eyes and the hearts of every Israeli who is affected by the loss of a loved one.
We Jews in Canada and the rest of the diaspora stand taller and prouder because of the accomplishments of the state of Israel. It is when we fully understand the significance of Yom HaZikaron that we can appreciate the incredible sacrifice of Israelis in order for us to all have a Jewish State.
Ambassador Ziv, please convey to the people of Israel that tonight there is no Israel and diaspora. Tonight, there is only Am echad belev echad – One people with one heart. We all yearn for the fulfillment of the Biblical teaching: Lo isa goy el goy kherev; lo ilmedu od milkhama – No nation shall lift sword against another nation and no longer will they learn war.