FROM YOM HAZIKKARON TO YOM HAATZMAUT:
A CELBRATION OF LIFE
In Israel we commemorate Yom Hazikkaron - Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, on the Hebrew date of 5-Iyyar which begins this year on the evening of April 30th. The following day, beginning the evening of May 1 through 2nd, we celebrate Yom Haatzmaut - Israel’s Independence Day. An odd combination, isn’t it? In the course of just one day our nation switch moods twice; from sadness, appreciation and empathy as appropriate for Yom Hazikkaron to happiness and joy in celebration of Independence day. While this combination may seem odd, it illustrates the typical Israeli made up of this very mixture.
Life in Israel, as you know, is complicated. There are so many good things happening in this beautiful country, and at the same time, sadly still far too many bad things. In order for us to truly and deeply appreciate what we have, we first need to make peace with the harsh truth of our reality. Before celebrating Israel’s Independence and its’ amazing achievements, we must first take a day to stop and thank the people that sacrificed their lives. Yom Hazikkaron is that important day. Without it we can not even comprehend Israel’s very existence. Only now, at the age of 18, soon to be enlisted, am I able to begin to understand how important Yom Hazikkaron is for my amazing country and for the entire Jewish people.
Yael Yekutiel, 20, was killed in a truck ramming attack along with three other soldiers on January 8, 2017. The driver of a heavy truck saw a group of soldiers waiting at the Haas Promenade in the Armon Hanetziv neighborhood and accelerated into the group. He then attempted to reverse into the group a second time. Yael, a resident of Givataim, served in the Education Corps of the IDF. Her father Yaakov Yakutiel spoke movingly at her funeral about yearning for more time with his daughter. He said, “You were so loved. Your wonderful smile, love of life, love of others and the fun we had with you. We didn’t have enough time with you.”
A week before Yaeli was murdered, her mom bought her a new water bottle. Yaeli figured she had enough bottles so she decided to do something unique with her mother’s gift. Every week she would place a note into the bottle about one good thing that happened to her. Unfortunately, she managed to write only one note. She was killed before she got the chance to pursue her project. Yaeli’s best friend decided to remember her in a positive way. She decided she would not fall apart and instead she decided to do what Yaeli would want her to do. At Yaeli’s funeral, she handed out water bottles to people in order for them to take part in this project themselves. In a world where you’re surrounded with bad news, negative feelings, it is inspiring to adopt this positive way of thinking. While she mourned her friend, she also chose to look at the good things in her life. I would like you to try and be more like Yaeli. Maybe you might be moved to even start your own project. On this Yom Hazikkaron, we must remember and mourn those who have fallen but let us also celebrate their lives, celebrate our lives, and appreciate everything that we have because of their sacrifice. Let us pledge not to take it for granted.