Memorial Day in America is a US federal holiday. It is celebrated on the last Monday of May. It is the day America remembers the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces (Wikipedia, ‘Memorial Day, USA’).
But Memorial Day in America is not what it used to be. Many Americans forget the meaning of their Memorial Day. Many cannot tell you whom they are supposed to remember. At cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are often abandoned. Many who died for their country now lie neglected, forgotten (Memorial Day history, usmemorialday.org/backgrnd).
In Israel, Memorial Day is called, ‘Yom Hazikaron’—Day of Remembrance. It, too, is a national holiday. It, too, is celebrated on the same (Hebrew calendar) day each year (with exceptions). It, too, is the day to remember soldiers who have died while serving in the Armed Forces.
Nevertheless, Israel’s Memorial Day does not imitate America. Consider the following scene. You may not see this in America.
Enter a supermarket, one in a chain of markets. Walk towards the vegetable displays. There, in an open spot, standing by itself, alone, is a single round table, large enough to sit perhaps three people. On it is a black tablecloth. It drapes over the table to the floor. In the middle of the black tablecloth sits a single item--a simple memorial candle. Behind the candle is a block-lettered sign, black letters on white. The sign reads, ‘Remember’.
That’s it. It’s simple. It’s uncluttered. But it’s also a stark reminder of the Day we observe. Its message cuts through you: remember those who can’t shop any more, it seems to say. They died so you can.
Since 1948, some 20,000 soldiers and civilians—including women and children—have been killed by those who hate Israel. In American terms, that’s the equivalent to more than a million Americans killed and murdered over the last 66 years.
Can you imagine how Americans would react to that kind of loss?
In Israeli terms, such loss means that every Israeli has met, seen, experienced or discussed death at the hands of our enemies. We understand what it means to be murdered because you live in Israel.
Israel’s Memorial Day is different from America’s because we do not just mourn the men and women who died fighting for us. We remember civilians, too. We remember them because Israel’s wars are not like America’s wars. Israel’s enemies have not stopped fighting against us.
They war against us continually. They target women and children. They give out celebratory candy when they kill us.
Since 1948, there have been more than a thousand terror attacks against Jews in Israel. Actually, we may not know exactly how many terror attacks we have suffered because Israel’s government has sometimes been hesitant to identify an attack as ‘terror’—for political reasons. But we do know this: whatever the true number of attacks, the enemies of Israel have killed, injured and traumatized us-- men, women and especially children.
They love attacking our children. They call our children, ‘military’ targets.
Families have been changed forever by such terror, often with tragic consequences. All of us have met such families. All of us feel their loss.
In Israel, unlike America, Memorial Day is not neglected. It is not abandoned. It is not a day we forget.
It is a day we remember.