Jonathan wrote beautifully about Yom Ha’zikaron (memorial day)
“Yom hazikaron and yom haatzmaut are inextricably linked in Israeli society. Yom hazikaron for me was a day of many emotions. Simply watching videos of lone soldier's mothers at the Massa ceremony on erev yom hazikaron made me contemplate both my own desire to one day serve Israel and the current and future service of my friends and family. I have one cousin, Oriane, who started her service this year and my brother Jonathan plans to make alliyah after his last year of college. As much as it may have come up on me by surprise, I have a strong current connection to the IDF, and I'm not even a soldier (Yet.) (Hi mom) Many people say they have trouble moving from the mourning of yom hazikaron to the celebration of Yom haatzmaut. While I understand the difficulty people may have, especially those who have lost direct relatives, I dont think the two days could ever be observed separately. As much as it pains our hearts to think of the fallen guardians of Israel, the mourning must go hand in hand with the celebration of Israel as an Independent Jewish state.
The Michael Levine's, Max Steinberg's, and Sean Karmeli's, z"l, of the world wouldn't have it any other way. They knew when they made alliyah that the service of protecting Israel, whilst difficult and dangerous, is the strongest thing connecting Jews to the state of Israel. The fact that Max Steinberg z"l, for example, could choose to make alliyah after a birthright trip, make his way into Golani, an elite combat unit, while barely knowing a lick of Hebrew, simply because he knew it is the most important job of a Jew in the modern world, is not only incredibly courageous but also telling of the relationship between the 2 days. It is no coincidence that 10,000 people attended his funeral. Israelis understand the importance of Jews, no matter where they are from, sacrificing their lives for the protection of the state. It is for that same reason that in 2006 Michael Levine z"l cut his vacation short and was on the first flight back to Israel when he heard of the Second Lebanon War breaking out. No one else needed him to fight - only himself.
It is said that he who saves a life saves the whole world. Each soldier saves millions of lives everyday - our gratitude and respect for them should never waver or diminish. Without them, there is no Independence Day. They are the purest embodiment of Israel, the backbone for the worldwide Jewish community.
When we went to har hertzl this morning, I was able to visit the graves of both Max Steinberg and Michael Levine. On Michael's grave, groups and visitors from all over the world leave hats, bracelets, name tags and other meaningful thing trinkets to pay respects. When i came over the summer, I left Michael a Philadelphia Eagles bracelet, as he shared my love for the team, and my Ramah Seminar nametag. Today, I left him my University of Maryland bracelet. There's something very meaningful to me about people leaving him pieces of their lives. It's as if they are still interacting with him and introducing themselves to him to this day.
At Max's grave, I was able to hear a little bit about him from his parents. His mom told a story of how Max became best friends with one of his squad mates, despite the friend being much more religious then him and Max not speaking any conversational Hebrew. Max's mom explained how a month ago, a wedding invitation appeared at Max's grave. At first she didn't know what it was, but then she realized it was from Max's best friend. The morning of Max's friend's wedding, he felt bad that he hadnt invited Max. He drove to Har Hertzl just hours before the wedding and made sure to give Max an invitation and be with his best friend on his wedding day.
Har Hertzl was incredibly meaningful for me and for the entire group. Singing hatikva with thousands of other Jews mourning over the graves of the fallen was incredibly moving. We concluded with everyone sharing a story of a fallen soldier they came across. I was honored to share Max's with the group.
May their memory be for a blessing יהי זכרם ברוך
After har herzl we left for the fuchesberg center to eat lunch, do a writing activity, and watch a movie. At 4:30, as the mood begins to lighten and people begin to focus on yom haatzmaut, we departed from Agron in pizzur groups where we could decide where we want to go in Jerusalem. Following pizzur we departed for a beautiful ceremony bridging the two days that took place in Teddy Park just outside the old city. After much singing and dancing as a grade and with strangers, the Hallel service concluded and all of the 700+ people sang hatikva together. The juxtaposition of singing hatikva in sorrow atop har herzl this morning and singing hatikva to bring in yom haatzmaut was incredibly powerful. It was the loudest I've ever sang anything in my life - the pride in Israel of all the Jews surrounding me seemed to almost amplify my singing. It was an incredibly meaningful experience.
The group then left for much more fun, dancing and celebrating on Ben yehuda and yaffo street. Thousands of people take to the streets of inner Jerusalem to attend concerts and celebrate our beautiful country. Because no matter what day of the year, that is the most important thing - Israel, is our country. It belongs to us as Jewish people, and we belong to it.
At 12:00 we loaded the bus and set off to kfar etzion where we'd spend the night”.