(X-posted from my home blog, Yinzer in Yerushalayim)
Since the end of Pesach, the whole city has been snowing Israeli flags. Every morning, more and more of them turned up, sticking out of car windows, strewn across balconies, suspended from buildings and streetlights, pocketing rearview mirrors—flags everywhere a flag could fit, all in preparation for the “Israeli High Holidays,” Yom HaShoa last week, and now, the main events, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut. Everyone says there’s nothing in the world like the emotional roller coaster of Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, and Yom HaAtzma’ut, Independence Day, nowhere else does an entire country go from such a deep depression to such a euphoric high in one day. There’s just nothing like it, they say, you just have to experience it.
So Tuesday night, I met group of friends to join several thousand others for a government Yom HaZikaron commemoration ceremony at the Kotel. Just as it began, the first siren went off. Like on Yom HaShoa, during the siren, everyone in the country stops whatever they are doing, stops, stands and remembers. Unlike on Yom HaShoa, Yom HaZikaron has two sirens: one in the middle of the day to interrupt people during their routines, and this one, at night, while most of the country is already stopped and remembering at a local ceremony. After the siren went off, someone barked orders to the Army, Navy, and Air-Force present to stand at attention and salute, then someone lit the huge Yizkor candle underneath the flagpole erected special for the occasion. Then new orders were barked and everyone stood at ease. Speakers got up one after the other: President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief IDF Rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz and probably other people, all giving Hebrew speeches I couldn’t understand a word of. Not that was I trying to. Instead, Continue reading