Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two Days of Emotion
Memorial Day/Independence Day

Today in Israel is Independence Day-yesterday was Memorial Day. I am privileged to be in Israel to have once again been part of this two-day celebration. At dusk, two days ago, the Memorial Day events began. Stores closed early, the radio music shifted and the entire country, religious and secular, people who have come from dozens of different cultures, put aside their differences and paid homage to those responsible for our freedom this day. It is something short of magical to witness. You see this is a country comprised of many dozens of different cultures and religions. Visitors are often struck by the velocity of life here and by the Israeli behavior as foreigners are fond to declare. Yet each year at this time of year according to the Hebrew calendar, people put aside their differences and pay homage to the fallen soldiers.

I was able to attend the evening Memorial event that honors Israeli soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms we have today. I watched with emotion as the local soldiers names, photos and date of death was flashed upon a large screen while prayers and song filled the evening air. As I looked about the audience, the pain was clearly visible in the behavior and upon the faces of so many in attendance. Songs were sung, prayers were offered, candles were lighted and individuals spoke some words of wisdom. For nearly 60 minutes, an Israeli audience was quiet, was respectful and displayed the appropriate honor to those who have fallen. Those of you who know about our life here may have a smile on your face and for sure you have a deep appreciation for such meaning.

We awoke the next day and went to the cemetery and participated in a short and honorable military ceremony. Each local group had two representatives walk solemnly to the soldiers’ memorial and place a wreath at its base. A lone trumpet played, prayers were said, and the audience joined in saying kadish. With precision found only in the military, a 21-gun salute was followed by the Israeli anthem-Tikva. It was time then to pay respects at your family members grave-the fallen ones who are in part responsible for our freedoms today. Along with millions of others in the country, I realized how fortunate we are-it is only through the strength of our military that we can sit today, Independence Day in our favorite café enjoying family and friends-and a good coffee! Yes, my dear friends, it is true, without our military, in this land where we are surrounded by millions of others who want Israel pushed into the sea, we live a “normal” life.

This must be the only country in the world that has, in a matter of moments, a transition from sadness to joy-this day was about Independence and democratic freedoms that are not taken for granted. At dusk last night, all the solemn behavior shifted to one of joy-we began with our first mangel (bar-b-q) and sat with friends upon our balcony –the fire works displays were astounding-they happened all around us-what a sight to behold. Yes, today is Independence Day, more ceremonies and a great deal of “mangeling”. The roads were packed, you could not move-but most remained calm and ultimately arrived at some out-door venue. This you have to see to believe-it seems as though the entire country goes outside to their favorite spot. After eating too much but having shared with my Israeli friends and family many stories, laughter and gossip, the entire country made its way home. The belagon on the roads made LA traffic rush hour a breeze. Yet, this is expected and each year this repeats itself. We shall do this all over again next year, no one here takes for granted that freedom comes with a price and for the most part, everyone, in their own way, serves so maybe, some day, their children and/or their grandchildren will have a different life. We in the West can learn a great deal from Israel, if we would only put aside some biases, prejudices and open our eyes to what the world is really like, this day.

I regret that my words are not able to share with you the emotion and the grace that was on display these last 48 hours. I know this, tomorrow I will say thank you to the soldiers, male and female, who understand that their service is required yet for the most part willingly give three years of active service and another 20 years of reserve duty so we may enjoy the coffee we had tonight at one of our favorite cafes. The scent of blossoms, the quiet sea breeze off the Mediterranean Sea still lingers in my senses as I write to you tonight. Tomorrow will come and we shall begin our lives anew!

I will place this on my new Blog-Doc’s Talk-you are invited to read some of my musings

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