Today at 11am I heard a siren go off.
I hurriedly finished a phone call, opened my window so I could hear the siren better, and stood at silent attention. From my office window on the 16th floor of the Technology Park in Jerusalem I could see that traffic on the roads below had come to a complete halt. People were respectfully standing outside their cars. Buses were stopped. There was no sound except the sound of the breeze and siren. The country paused for two minutes — two long minutes — to remember the 22,570 soldiers killed in the line of duty and civilians killed by terrorists. 22,570 lives lost, most of them young lives, lives full of potential, lives yet to be lived.
What do you think of during those two minutes? As I fought back a tear reflecting on the lives lost, I asked myself, “is it worth the price?” “It,” of course, being a country for the Jews — Israel.
The answer, both immediate and on reflection, is a strong “yes!” It’s a huge price to pay: if America had a similar loss on a percentage basis, 1.2 million would have died defending the country or to terrorists since 1948. The reason Yom Hazikaron is such a big deal here is that most people know someone who died, or have a close friend who lost a loved one. It’s not a remote holiday that has lost it’s meaning. The price is high, and for many people here it is personal.
But it is worth it. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “if you’ve got nothing worth dying for, then you’ve got nothing worth living for.”
In a brilliant reminder of the purpose of all those deaths, we celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day, the Israeli 4th of July, on the very next day. Since with the Jewish calendar the day changes at sunset, later this evening, as the sun sets, we shift gears, we go from remembering our dead to celebrating our country. We mourn the loss, and then we celebrate what they gave their lives for.
And, just like in America, we celebrate Independence Day by firing up the BBQ!