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Monday, April 26, 2004

Hope

You can tell a lot about a country by the songs that become popular during times of war. If there is one reason I am here, and nowhere else in the world, it is because of a song that became popular after the Yom Kippur war in 1973. The words of the song contain the hopeful chorus, “I promise you my little daughter that this will be the last war”.

Today and tomorrow are the ‘one-two punch’ that tends to give the country emotional whiplash:

Today is Yom Hazikaron (memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers) and tomorrow is Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence day).

The back-to-back proximity of these two days is intentional. It forces the mourners of the former (there are almost no families that have not lost a member or close friend) to recognize that their loss helped make the latter possible. Likewise, it forces the celebrants of the latter to understand the staggering price paid by the mourners of former.

In ceremonies around the country for Remembrance Day, the country mourned the 20,196 men and women who have been killed while serving in the Israel Defense Force. Soldiers, young and old, stood at attention with tears streaming down their faces as they remembered missing friends, playmates and neighbors. These soldiers, from the newest recruit, to the Army’s Chief of Staff, stood in their unadorned uniforms, with only worry lines and scars, besides the modest indicators of rank, to differentiate them. You see, unlike any other military in the world, The IDF does not give medals, ribbons, sashes, or other decorations to its soldiers for bravery. Every soldier that serves during a war is given a small colored bar to indicate his/her participation. Besides that, the only adornment on even the most senior officer’s uniform is the unit tag on the shoulder, the indication of rank, and the IDF insignia (an intertwined sword and olive branch) on the beret. War is not something to be celebrated here…and it is assumed everyone, in their own way, and at their own time, will have been brave.

When a parent looks at his or her children growing up, they have boundless hopes for the future. Today is the day when parents stand and cry over dashed hopes…over a pain that can never be eased; the loss of a child. While families mourn for their members who were killed…this is not a time for private mourning. The country truly becomes one large family for at least this one day, and somehow the shared grief is easier to bear.

During the ceremonies at the Western Wall, President Moshe Katsav pointed out that, while we may mark tomorrow as Independence Day…today is necessary to remind us that the war of independence is not yet over. Most of the countries that attacked Israel on the day it declared its statehood in 1948 still consider themselves to be at war over the issue. With each passing year we hope that we will be able to finally live in peace.

Israel’s national anthem, like its soldier’s uniforms, is unadorned and free of marshal trappings. No mention of battles or rockets. No bombs or flags. The national anthem is called ‘HaTikva’- literally, ‘The Hope’. The melody is borrowed from a simple eastern European folk song. The words speak about 2000 years of longing to live as a free nation in our homeland.

As an Israeli, and as a father, I can’t promise…but I hope this is truly our last war.

Posted by David Bogner on April 26, 2004 | Permalink

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Back then - in 1973 - we still didn't know who we were dealing with. And I'm sorry to say that too many of us still don't know who we're dealing with. After the Oslo Accords were signed, Arafat went to South Africa and 'assured' his Moslem audience that what he signed was no different than what Mohammed signed with (can't think of the name of it) a Jewish tribe. It was just to be a temporary 'truce' until his forces could be strengthened. That is just what Arafat meant - to sign a 'truce' for ten years. The only difference between Hamas and Arafat is methodology. Their goal is the same: the destruction of Israel.

Now to a lighter note. What did you think of last night's ceremony with only sports figures lighting the flame? My husband didn't think much of it. He thought that there should have been one or two sports figures and the rest from other fields.

We went out for a meal of shipudim today. I had hodu (turkey for you non-Hebrew speakers) and he ordered duck liver. Plus, of course, all the side dishes: humus, freedom (you know what I mean) fries, and various salads. Now he's watching old Israeli movies and I'm on-line.

I understand tonight that Limor isn't going to be at the awards; she won't have to look Tamarkin in the face and hand him his award! I wouldn't be there either if I were her! Our esteemed President will do the 'honors' instead. By the way, I used to be his neighbor back when we lived in Kiryat Malachi. I used to teach his nephews English privately and was friends with his sister. I even 'yelled' at him once after beit knesset one Shabbat concerning the Wye Accords. He turned to my husband and asked, "Why is she yelling at me? Tell her to talk to Bibi."

Posted by: Chaya Eitan | Apr 27, 2004 4:35:43 PM

Oh - I see that Livnat is there! Don't know if Tumarkin got his award yet or not. I just turned on the tv.

Posted by: Chaya Eitan | Apr 27, 2004 8:12:41 PM

I share your hope, David. Nice post (as was the barbecue post!)

-Jim

Posted by: Jim | Apr 28, 2004 11:40:38 PM

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