Memorial Day brings a lot of emotions to the surface, especially longing for, and missing, people we have lost. I personally knew several childhood friends and other acquaintances who were killed while defending Israel. Various facial expressions, turns of speech and such, suddenly remind me of those young men whom I will not see again.
These beloved ones were uprooted from our midst. There have been around 23, 800 who have fallen in this small nation since its modern rebirth. In addition around 5,000 have fallen in other circumstances related to terror and enmity. The only true healing and freedom from this is in our Lord. Each of these families have their challenges and their courage.
Indeed it is a noble and selfless thing to choose life even after experiencing heartbreak.
For all bereaved families there is no day without feeling the absence of their loved ones. For them every day is a memorial day, in the big things and in the small, in the happy moments and in the sad ones.
I have stood before bereaved families and seen how admirably they bear their pain, how gloriously they cope with their mourning.
The broader “family” of all those who have been bereaved, includes people living in the city and in the country. It includes those from the East and from the West. It includes people of widely varying political perspectives. It includes secular and religious, Jewish and Arab, Christian and Muslim, Bedouin and Druze and Circassian.
After 70 years of Israel being an independent state, I wish I could say that we are a strong enough society and nation to inclusively embrace all these various members, without allowing differences to fragment us from within. However we still have a long way to go, and without the Lord it will be impossible.
It is shocking how easy it is to become part of the “family” of the bereaved, whereas Israeli society is divided on almost every other issue.
From the establishment of the nation until today, we continue to pay a heavy price in lives – young soldiers in mandatory service and older ones on reserve duty, policemen and women, whose lives are suddenly cut short in the line of duty. Memorial Day is an opportunity to stand with them and their families.
Together with all the achievements reached, and alongside many huge challenges Israel has overcome, we also need to establish a society here that will be inclusive of all, despite sharp differences and disagreements. This nation is to be a righteous light to the nations, worthy of the heavy price we have paid. We hope for the day to come when the prophetic vision will be fulfilled:
“They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. No longer will nation fight against nation, and they will not learn to make war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
Every year we take part in ceremonies. We watch documentaries of the fallen and their families, or even go to military cemeteries, in a personal and national ritual of 42 hours of remembering.
As I bow my head at the moment of remembering, I think of the bereaved families. I think of friends joined in life and in pain. I think of my own children who will soon be drafted into the Israeli army, and how I have sought to train them to love their country in light of the Word of God.
*(This year the Memorial Day falls on April 28.)