May 05, 2008

Yom HaZikaron - Israeli Memorial Day

Remembering fallen Israeli soldiers. Tuesday, May 6, 2008 (2nd of Iyyar, 5768) is Israeli Memorial Day or literally, Israel Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day. It is an Israeli national holiday.

Yom HaZikaron always precedes the next day's celebrations of Israel Independence Day, Yom Ha-Atzma'ut, the anniversary of the Proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Yom HaZikaron honors veterans and fallen military personnel of the Israel Defense Forces and other Israeli security services who lost their lives in the struggle that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and for all military personnel who were killed while in active duty in Israel's armed forces. Yom Hazikaron also commemorates civilians murdered by acts of Muslim terrorism.

Magash Hakesef (The Silver Platter), a poem written by Nathan Alterman during the 1948 War of Independence, was during the 1950s and '60s the most common reading for Yom Hazikaron ceremonies. However, as Chaim Weizmann (First President of the State of Israel) put it: "A state is not presented on a silver platter."

Here is a translation of Magash Hakesef (The Silver Platter), by Natan Alterman:

The earth grows still.
The lurid sky slowly pales over smoking borders.
Heartsick but still living, a people stand by
To great the uniqueness
Of the miracle. Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy before the light. - - Then soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;
In work clothes and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing still the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fired night
Unwashed, weary until death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
- - Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?
Through wondering tears, the people stare.
"Who are you, the silent two?"
And they reply: "We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you."
And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation's feet.
Let the rest in Israel's chronicles be told.
As AJ6 puts it, "maybe Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance, is the wrong name. Because more than remembering these people, we owe these people. We owe them for a homeland, a secure place for our people. A place where there is no shame in being Jewish. They have given the Jewish people a future. This day should be a day of thanks, a tribute. They died so that we can live! They all died in service of the State of Israel. They died al kiddush Hashem, for the Jewish people. Their resting place is in the shade of the Divine wings, close to God and their memories will be with us always."