By: D. Blackburn
To Everything There Is A Season
“Racheli hayita hashemesh.” Racheli was the sun she said through her tears. It was Yom HaZikaron 2001, my first soldiers’ remembrance day living in Israel. As she spoke we stood in silence class by class, a sea of white shirts and black pants (the required uniform for remembrance days). Just a few months prior, on February 14, I had been shopping with my father for a gift when a barrage of emergency vehicles was heard rushing down the main street of our small seaside city.
A little later the media informed the country that a terror attack had occurred and that several young soldiers from Ashkelon, my city, had been killed and many others injured. An Arab bus driver, for no apparent reason, drove his bus at full-speed into a bus station where a group of soldiers who had been on leave for the weekend were waiting to catch the bus back to their bases.
One of those injured was the sister of a classmate of mine. On Yom HaZikaron, she sat on the stage in her wheelchair and spoke of her dear friends who did not survive the attack including Sgt. Rachel Levy, age 19. Tears were in the eyes of several of the students and the teachers as the names of those killed in the previous year were read and we took a moment to remember them.
I did not know any of the victims personally; I doubt that the majority of us standing there did. Yet, in that moment, as the smoke from the memorial flame that was lit drifted up towards the heavens, I felt united with my classmates and my people as we mourned this great loss together.
The sirens sounded across the country, cars stopped, busses pulled over and the whole nation stood together in silence to remember. It was as if nothing else mattered, as if life had stopped for a moment to remind us of its fleeting nature.
As the sirens continued to blast for a full minute, we remembered not only those soldiers whose lives were taken in the last year, but also in every war and terror attack since the inception of the country. These fallen warriors are given the highest honor in remembering their great sacrifice. Israelis re-live that pain every year so they never forget the significance of their loss.
The Israeli people are ever grateful for the continued freedom to live in their own land, but they deeply mourn any loss of life, Jewish, Arab, or Christian. Golda Meir said it well when she said, “It is true that we have won all our wars, but we have paid for them. We don’t want any more victories.”
Contrary to what the media may purport, the sentiment of the Israeli people is towards peace, they are exhausted from war. However, they will continue to fight as long as it is necessary. As Meir also said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
Yom HaZikaron take places just one day prior to Israel’s independence day, known in the Land as Yom HaAtzmaut. This is intentional that those who died to maintain the State’s independence would be remembered just prior to the celebration. Within 24 hours the country goes from tears to dancing in the streets. It is truly a case of “turning our mourning into dancing.” As Golda also said, “Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart, don’t know how to laugh either.”
As believers, we know that the age-old hatred that began with Ishmael and Isaac, followed by Jacob and Esau, will not be brought to a true end until the return of the Messiah. We prayerfully await that awesome day, and, in the meantime, we must stand in prayer for Israel, her soldiers, and her people. We know, “He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” however, we must also remember what Yeshua said to the disciples upon finding them asleep. He asked, “So couldn’t you keep watch with Me for one hour?”
We must not take for granted that the L-rd has His hand over Israel and her soldiers and forget to join Him in keeping watch. As the political situation in the Middle East continues to stew, it is of the greatest importance that we not be found “sleeping”.
The L-rd has performed many miracles in Israel even to this day, sparing hundreds even thousands of lives at a time. I have no doubt that it is our continued prayers for Israel, the Knesset, and the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces that help keep them safe.
This year there are many new Jewish immigrants who will celebrate their first independence day in Israel. Many of them fled the growing persecution in their home countries such as in France and in the Ukraine. These families have a new understanding of freedom.
As you go about this day stand with Israel in remembering her fallen sons and daughters. There are many names to be read this year following the most recent war, including two believing soldiers.
I also encourage you to pray for the soldiers that serve in the United States military. So many lives have been lost over the last decade and a half, so many families broken. Their sacrifice is generally overlooked or forgotten by the American people because often we are not directly affected by the conflict that took them. Looking at the state of affairs in the world, the amount of death and destruction, we can learn from Israel in honoring the memory of those who died for our freedom and rejoice in the fact that we are free.
There are celebrations in local Jewish communities all over the world taking place tomorrow. We encourage you to join in the celebration in your city to mark 67 years of the Jewish State.