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Monday, April 27, 2009

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 night begins Yom Ha’atzma'ut (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 will mourn the men and women who have been killed while serving in the Israel Defense Force.  Soldiers, young and old, will stand at attention with tears streaming down their faces as they remember missing friends, playmates and neighbors. These soldiers, from the newest recruit, to the Army’s Chief of Staff, will stand 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 pass out a lot of 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 martial 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 we have truly seen our last war.

[I first published this entry April 26th 2004.

Posted by David Bogner on April 27, 2009 | Permalink

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I agrue that Hatikva is not from an Eastern European folk song. I think this is just another case of low Jewish self esteem. There were many travelling Jewish musicians in the 1800s in Europe and many so called Gypsey or Ukranian songs could very well be actually Jewish in origin. Or, maybe vice versa. I just don't like it when peopek try and say that my anthem is stolen. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy your blog and read it regularly and agree with your positions, so sorry for nit-picking on this one issue.

Posted by: ben | Apr 28, 2009 2:50:39 PM

Ben... No offense taken... but I must point out that no musical historian has been able to find even a hint of a Jewish origin for the main theme of Hatikva that predates the Maldau. If you know of one you will be a hero.

Posted by: David Bogner | Apr 28, 2009 4:28:40 PM

Why won't legislators adopt the Hatikva? will the Arab MK(s) call it racist?

Posted by: Rami | Apr 28, 2009 5:15:35 PM

The only way to see the end of war is to give up everything that you believe. As long as you are not willing to fight for anything, there will be no conflict.

Posted by: David Bailey | Apr 28, 2009 6:38:05 PM

... it is a lovely thought though.

Posted by: David Bailey | May 1, 2009 12:29:54 AM

As I have been busy with the new sabra granddaughter, I haven't had the opportunity to read my favorite blogs. How fitting that the first one I read after the baby naming mentions my granddaughter's name, and the song that inspired her father to choose the name for her. Our soldier son, like many before him, sings to his baby, Daniella Tikva, those words of prayer and hope. He is young enough to still believe it is a promise. May Hashem make it so.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | May 3, 2009 8:46:38 PM

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