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“Today I remember the men and women who died tragically for my country, the State of Israel.”
The time between the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was marked by Jewish Persecution. Throughout Europe and Asia, Jews could not find one place to sit down and live in peace. From blood libels to the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus trial to the Holocaust, Jews have been targeted by every other nation as scapegoats for their problems.
Prior to independence and more than 61 years later, Israel has lost some of its best workers, intellectuals, laborers, and friends in the fight to keep the Jewish state alive. When neighboring Arab countries attempt to drive Israel into the sea, the Israel Defense Forces step up to protect the country which is not only theirs, but that of the entire nation stemming from Yitzhak (also known as Israel). We are blessed to have a country that has survived 61 years, so we must remember how we achieved this feat. We give tribute to those who allow us to live without persecution in the land of Israel.
Judaism is a religion centered around looking back at the past: remembering Creation and the Exodus from Egypt, remembering family members who pass away, remembering the Shoah. Today, we remember those who were killed in battle and those who were innocent bystanders. Remembrance is so critical that the day is named after the word (Yom Hazikaron comes from the root of zocher/lizchor – to remember).
Many times, the Israelis who lost their lives were secular Jews; Jews who shared a connection only through common name of religion. It is this connection, however, that makes the camaraderie so special. They care not the level of observance, yet they will do anything to protect a Jew.
Don’t ever forget those who fought so you could be safe in Israel. Today I remember Michael Levin (z”l) as a hero and role model for many. Michael attended Ramah Poconos and was active in Hagesher USY, went on USY High, and decided to make Aliyah directly after Nativ. He was killed tragically in the 2nd Lebanese War in 2006, the only American and chayal boded (lone soldier) to die that summer. Below is his quote from his Nativ yearbook:
“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all.”
-Michael Levin (z”l), Of Blessed Memory
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