Monday, April 19, 2010
A Serious Post with a Serious Message for a Serious Day
Despite all the jokes, often times the substantially different life one lives in Israel, compared to any other place in the world, is for the better. Today, one day before Israel celebrates its inception with the raucously joyous Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), the country solemnly pays homage to the thousands who have sacrificed their lives for the Jewish People and the Jewish State. Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance Day, is a 24 hour tribute to all the brave martyrs of Israel, highlighted by ceremonies state-wide at the graves of the fallen and in the communities where their undying roots were cultivated.
I grew up in a Los Angeles Jewish community that was, and remains today, a staunch Zionist entity. I have attended Remembrance Day ceremonies of some shape or form all of my life. I had even spent the last three Remembrance Days in Israel. However, not until this year did I truly feel the awesome power of Remembrance Day in Israel as well as the message it represents both conceptually and emotionally.
At 8 pm on the night of Remembrance Day (as well as 11 am the following morning) a siren wails across the entire state, signifying a moment of silence for the fallen fighters. Every Jewish boy and girl that grew up in America learning about this day has seen the pictures of men and women on the highway, putting their cars in park, getting out of their cars, and standing in somber silence and solidarity, traffic lights be damned. This year was the first time I was in a car when the siren went off and had the privilege to take part in this inspiring and unique act. Looking from the Ultra-Orthodox family to my left to the Non-Religious construction workers behind me, I could feel, for just a few seconds, the streets of Israel flooded, not with tires, but with the feet of the nation, as if to say we know more than anyone what “standing our ground” truly means. This was my first indication that this would be a special Remembrance Day.
My second rousing experience came at a community ceremony I attended later that night. The community was not distinct in any way. They had lost their share of fathers and sons (as if any number is a considerable share) like most other communities in Israel, but the gathering itself was not unlike others I had attended in America. In fact, I believe the similarities of the ceremony to the ones I had participated in growing up in the US, were the reason I felt the exceptionality of Remembrance Day in Israel stronger than ever before. This sentiment was driven home by the reading of a letter that is read a great deal at Remembrance Day ceremonies all across Israel. The letter was written by 23 year old Gadi Ezra to his fiancée Galit in case the worst should happen to him after he was called into battle in April of 2002. The worst did happen, and Galit received the letter. Among many things one can point to in amazement and respect in the letter (full text can be read here), one paragraph resonated louder than the others as I stood in silence with a couple hundred other mourners. Gadi writes, “My beloved, on one hand I feel that there is nothing more that I want in this world than to be with you - to love you and to establish a home and a family with you. But on the other hand, there isn't anything that I want more than to be a part of this military operation and strike those terrorists a blow so strong, that they will never again even consider carrying out a terrorist attack. In order to do this, there is a price that we must pay. I am willing to be that price. Don't be angry with me, my love, but at moments like this, your feelings for Klal Yisrael (all of Israel) is the feeling that is supposed to guide you right now - and you relate to this evil as if your private life does not exist”. In these four simple sentences, Gadi encapsulated the essence of the State of Israel and its people, and carries a message that must be learned by the rest of the world. The message that we the people are responsible for our future, and every man and woman must take that responsibility upon themselves in order to succeed and survive.
No country needs to learn this message more than the United States of America under the Presidency of Barak Obama. While Obama continues to malign Israel and attempt to paint it as a misguided nation, he is exposing his very own off-kilter outlook for all to see. The underlying theme of President Obama’s policies, domestic and foreign alike, has been a diluted cocktail of socialism and stateism. The President believes that the government and the elite who run it should be in charge of who gets what and why. No self-responsibility is needed in Obama’s America, the government will sort out all the needs of the people and regulate your life accordingly. The will of the people is little more than a polling statistic for upcoming elections. The true test of a strong nation, in Obama’s world, is that of the government’s power to implement its programs come hell or high water.
For those of you still looking for a reason why this article would be on a satire blog, take note because here comes the irony. Israel, a state built mainly on the principles of socialism, now outranks the US in democratic value and worth. The essence of Israel, portrayed so purely by Gadi Ezra’s letter, is that of the power of the everyday citizen. While both Obama’s as well as Israel’s ideology stress the acknowledgment of a greater good, only Israel’s exhibits this sentiment in everyday life. The greater good in Obama’s world is the government. The greater good in Israel is the (chosen) nation as a whole, where every citizen must lead by example. Gadi was one of millions of Israelis who were and are willing to be the “price to pay” for every Jew on this earth to have a safe-haven and more importantly a homeland. Obama believes in dialogue and reconciling the international community at the cost of self-preservation. Israel knows it cannot afford that outlook or it will be wiped off the map in short order. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the acclaim of “society” in order to do what is truly just.
America’s unending glorification of the individual is misplaced. The everyday American must learn from the everyday Israeli. Yes, individualism is important, but the unique individual has a responsibility to use his unparalleled traits for the good of the nation. The measure of a nation is not the strength of its leaders or government, but the strength of its people.
Remembrance Day in Israel, with its sorrowful siren and Gadi Ezra’s words of simplistic beauty, is a beacon of the ideology that every nation should predicate itself upon. The people of Israel do not sit around and wait for its government to do what is needed. The people of Israel go out and do what is needed themselves, and that is why it has survived lopsided attack after lopsided attack these past 62 years and will continue to. Hopefully, with G-d’s help and the growing realization of this truth, 2010 will be the last year names are added to the lists read on Remembrance Day.
Posted by Doni Kandel