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May Their Memory Be a Blessing

May 13, 2024

by: Janet Aslin

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According to Jewish custom, memorial candles are lit in remembrance of loved ones who have died.

Monday, 13 May 2024 | When it comes to remembering those who have died, no other people or nation can compare with the way Jewish people and the State of Israel honor the lives of those who are no longer with them. At 8 p.m. last night, Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, began when a siren sounded throughout the land for one minute. Today is a somber day of remembering as the entire country remains in a time of mourning, one of shared grief with the immediate families of those whose fathers, mothers, husbands, sons and daughters have given their lives in the defense of the State of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is especially difficult this year.

The nation’s main ceremony took place at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem but there were many, smaller ceremonies around the country. I was invited by an Israeli friend to accompany her to one that specifically honored Israel’s Lone Soldiers. Twenty-eight men and two women were included in the group of Lone Soldiers who have fallen since October 7. They came from around the world: Russia, France, Ukraine, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, the United States and even one from Ghana. They ranged from 20 to 39 years of age with one thing in common: a love for Israel and a passion to defend the Jewish people from their enemies.

The evening was filled with short video clips where friends shared special memories of the slain soldiers, poignant and painful interviews with mothers whose grief is still very raw and taped messages from President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Ofir Sofer, the current Minister of Aliyah and Integration, gave his address in person.

One strength of the Jewish people is their solidarity in times of crisis or tragedy. The grieving families do not mourn alone. In her testimony, one grieving Jewish mother from a distant country described the day that her son was laid to rest. She looked in amazement at the hundreds and hundreds of mourners who had come from around the country to honor her son’s sacrifice. In her message she said, “They didn’t know him, yet they came.” I’m sure there were many in the crowd last night who had not been directly impacted by the death of a loved one. Yet, it was important that they come to the ceremony and stand in unity with those who had.

At the close of the ceremony, a cantor sang the Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer for the dead followed by “Shema Israel” whose familiar and haunting words call to the Jewish people saying, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” He sang one final prayer, the El Malei Rachamim (God full of mercy) before we all joined in singing Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah (the Hope). The songs themselves offered a transition from mourning, to looking to God who is full of mercy and finally one of thanksgiving that the Jewish people are home, in the land of their inheritance after 2,000 years.

As a Gentile and “sojourner in the Land,” I cannot fully grasp the depth of suffering the Jewish people have endured over the centuries. And today, with the world turning more and more against them that pain increases. After the last song, my Israeli friend turned to me for a hug and I felt the smallest bit of understanding the pain she feels. I was humbled that we could share that moment of standing together in remembrance of 30 Lone Soldiers who came to Israel and made the ultimate sacrifice. Last night I received a tiny glimpse of what it means to be Jewish. May I never forget.

Posted on May 13, 2024

Source: (Bridges for Peace, May 13, 2024

Photo Credit: Elena/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr