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Remembering Israel's Heroes

Israeli flag at Mt. Herzl Cemetery (Photo: flickr/yaffamedia)

The blaring two-minute siren which goes off across Israel and marks the onset of Memorial Day awakens our collective memory to the soldiers who gave their lives to defend our country. But for me and my neighbors, there is an even greater reminder we witness each year of the tragic loss so many Israeli families have endured since the modern state of Israel was founded.

My 76-year-old neighbor, Yudit, lost her son – her youngest, or her “baby” as she calls him – during the 1982 Lebanon War. And every year as Memorial Day begins, I see cars rolling into my typically quiet and at times empty block, as they find parking outside or close to Yudit’s house.

Yudit stands on her porch and greets the soldiers who served in Lebanon with her son Amos. Thirty-four years have passed since the first Lebanon War, and since then, Amos’ army comrades visit his mother on Memorial Day to share in her loss, to offer their condolences, and to recall memories of her son.

And so, even before the siren went off in Israel, before I stood for attention while holding my newborn baby alongside my wife and children, I peeked out the window and saw the cars rolling in, and I knew, today is Memorial Day. Today is the day when my neighbor, who my kids call Saftah Yudit – Grandma Yudit – recalls the greatest sacrifice anyone can make for their country, their people, and, most of all, for God.

As the siren dies down, and the cars roll away into the distance, Yudit will be sitting on her porch, left with the memories Memorial Day brings, with the pictures she brought out to share with others. I’ve joined Yudit on her porch on several of those lonely afternoons, when all the visitors have left and she is sitting alone, thinking of her son and the life he could have had, of the life he gave to defend his people.

“I raised my children with the belief that our mission in life, here in the Holy Land, is worth giving the ultimate sacrifice for, yet I never thought, when they were kids, that it would actually come to that,” I recall Yudit telling me on several occasions. And though it is painfully hard for any mother to lose a child in the prime of their life, Yudit is still deeply proud of her son and his service. She remains a warrior – just like Amos.

- Ami Farkas

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