My first year in rabbinical school was in Jerusalem, one year after the Yom Kippur war had ended. It was a sobering moment when on the anniversary of its conclusion the nation came to a standstill. As is done every year on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, a siren was sounded for two minutes. Everything stops! Traffic, pedestrians at corners, shopkeepers! The weeks leading to that day were filled with re-burials for those who died in the Sinai and were interred in temporary settings. Nearly three thousand casualties in a small nation which proportionately in America would have meant millions!
A woman standing next to me spoke after the sirens went silent. She told me she had been a nurse on the Egyptian front, had witnessed the carnage. Despondently, she spoke of a soldier who was on life support lingering between life and death and how she wanted to withdraw the sustaining IV and let him die. “I feel that about the Jewish people,” she then remarked. “I had a family that was all but destroyed in the Holocaust. As with the Jewish people I sometimes think after this latest carnage that we need to pull the plug and end our existence. Let us at long last give up!” What response could you offer at such a moment? Who can judge that woman’s despair? Not I then or now!
April each year is filled with small observances that follow Passover but which are large in meaning: Holocaust day, Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atsmaut (Israel Independence Day).
An Israeli member of the Knesset remarked: “That is how we do it: first a sad day of remembrance followed by the jubilance of independence. “ Somehow we find a way to persist. The news out of Israel is often dire. Newspapers tend to focus on the bad news, the injustices and excesses of the Jewish nation state, disproportionately so! One of the antidotes that I prescribe is a website Israel 21C. It is filled with happy reviews of Israel’s technological prowess, efforts for reconciliation and steps for peace. Such newsworthy items are eclipsed by the ugly realities of the Middle East. It provides us with some balance. Not to ignore any of the concerns that arise when we consider the poor machinations that befall any nation state which are by definition endemic! Hopefully not epidemic!
I will celebrate Israel’s Independence Day this year as I do every year. On page
8 you can review that which I review every year; Israel’s Independence day declaration. It too, is an antidote to despair and a reminder never to pull the plug!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.