Monday, April 27, 2009

Memorial Day in Israel

Tonight, Monday, at 8 pm yet another nation-wide siren will sound, so that every Israeli in every part of the country will hear it. This signals the start of Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day. Tonight’s siren will last only a minute, but tomorrow, at 11 am, another will sound for two minutes. Ceremonies will begin at 43 different military cemeteries all over the country to remember those who fought and died for this embattled little country.

Since 1860, a total of 22,570 men and women have been killed defending the land of Israel. Why count from 1860? Well, you have to start somewhere – counting from Temple days would hardly be possible. And it was in 1860 that the Jews who were living in Jerusalem at the time moved outside the walls of Jerusalem to build new neighborhoods in The Land. Up until then, everyone had lived in the relatively tiny area protected by the high stone walls. In that sense, it was the beginning of the State of Israel.

It’s not only soldiers who have died in defense of the country, but security forces and civilians have paid the ultimate price, too. In just the last year, 13 security force members and 12 civilians have been killed in war or by terrorists. These include ten soldiers and three civilians who were killed during the Chanukah War, three policemen who were murdered by terrorists, three who died as a result of the bizarre bulldozer attack in Jerusalem, and three who were killed by rocket and missiles fired by terrorists from Aza.

The last victim is especially sad. On Thursday, April 1, two young boys, Yair Gamliel and Shlomo Nativ were playing near the local council building in Beit Ayin, a common place for children to gather and play. A terrorist carrying an ax in his hand approached them and managed to strike both with the ax.

Shlomo, age 13, ran to his home which was just across the street. Yair, who is seven years old, also ran, although he had suffered a fractured skull. Yair survived his serious injuries.

At home, one of Shlomo’s brothers – the Nativ family has nine children – tried to staunch the bleeding in Shlomo’s chest, but the wounds were too deep. Shlomo passed away within minutes.

Twenty years ago the Nativ family was among the founder of the idyllic Beit Ayin community which now numbers over a thousand people. It’s a popular community for returnees to Judaism to come to study or live, and thus is home for many Anglo immigrants. Within Israel, it’s respected for organic produce.

Shlomo was the second-youngest of the nine children, a freckle-faced young boy with an infectious grin. The family raises sheep, goats and chickens, and Shlomo worked along with everyone else to care for them, feeding and milking them.

Interesting, too, is that the Fatah party – the party of Mahmaud Abbas, the man with whom Israel is supposed to be making peace – and Islamic Jihad took credit for the murder of Shlomo Nativ. They are, apparently, proud of their actions in murdering children.

When the sun sets and Memorial Day ends, then Yom Hatzmaut – Independence Day – begins. The significance isn’t lost on anyone. Without the sacrifice of those who fought to found and protect this country, there would be no Independence Day.

More about that tomorrow.

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