Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. - Deuteronomy 32:7
Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, begins on April 21st at sundown and continues through today, April 22nd.
Today is Israel's Memorial Day. In Deuteronomy we read, "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." Remembering the past has always been a foundational value in Judaism. The Hebrew word for "remember" is zakor, and it is from this word that this day gets its name: Yom HaZikaron, Day of Remembrance. On this day we remember all who gave their lives while establishing and protecting the modern State of Israel.
In 1947, just after Israel had won the United Nations vote for a Jewish state, David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, said these poignant words: "When I returned to Jerusalem I saw the city happy and rejoicing, dancing in the streets and a big crowd gathering in the yard of the Jewish Agency building. I'll admit the truth - that joy was not my lot - not because I did not appreciate the UN's decision, but because I knew what awaited us: war with all the armies of the Arab nations."
These chilling words were the truth. Before the dream of nationhood could be realized, there would be much war, bloodshed, and tears.
Around that same time, Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, made a similar remark that later became famous. He said, "The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter." He, too, realized that there would be a dear price to pay for Israel's nationhood. Picking up on those words, Israeli poet Natan Alterman wrote a beautiful, yet heart-wrenching poem called "The Silver Platter."
In it, he depicts a young boy and girl, dirty and exhausted from battle. As they approach, they are asked "Who are you?" They answer, "We are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given." The poem concludes, "Thus they will say and fall back in shadows. And the rest will be told in the chronicles of Israel."
In Israel, Yom HaZikaron is not a day for shopping sales or barbeques. It is a day when most Israeli families sit together and remember those young men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we could have a homeland. We honor those who became the "silver platter" on which our state was given to us. We bring them out of the shadows of the past and tell their stories.
In whatever country you live in, chances are someone died so that you could live in freedom and prosperity. Let's take the time to remember and honor those who died for our liberties. Let us pray that no other lives need be sacrificed to ensure the freedom we all deserve.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President