“Pause for Dramatic Effect”

As Israel’s government holds up its efforts with the Judicial reform to focus on the holidays and regroup, so do I. This month’s Shnekel is a bit longer than usual, but for good reason. It’s difficult for me to write about it, so I hope you will bear with me.

The Yoms, as we call them, are these couple of weeks where we get together to commemorate Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) and Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut). The combination is always complicated; a celebration mixed with remembrance; happiness mixed with grief; joy mixed with bitterness.

Recently, we had a great program with Avi Jorisch, a wonderful speaker who gave a talk about Israeli innovation and made a reference about the Yoms. He said that Yom HaShoah serves as a reminder of the cost for not having a country for the Jewish people, Yom HaZikaron reminds us of the cost for having a country for the Jewish people, and Yom Ha’atzmaut serves as an opportunity to be grateful for it. That didn’t always resonate with me. How can you not be overwhelmed with so many emotions all at once. How can you distinguish happiness from sorrow, and switch so rapidly from grieving over lost loved ones to celebrations? I’m definitely still processing that mixture.

During my military service I was a logistics officer, I did an extra year and a half and commanded supply convoy. But before I became an officer, as a soldier, I was part of Operation “Protective Edge,” Tzuk Eitan in Gaza, 2014. There, on one sunny summer morning, a missile hit my unit, causing multiple casualties. Eight people died that day, and we had to move on and continue what we did for that day, that week, even that month. I spent two months on the border of Gaza.

It took me quite a while to recover from it, and to talk about it. That was only two months out of the four and a half years I served, I did so much more than just that, I participated in a lot of educational work, helped young adults of all religions with income problems to complete their service and gain a profession from it. But those two months took the longest to overcome. It still does. And Yom Hazikaron serves as a constant reminder for that.  

There is a point here, I promise you. Most people are probably not going to experience that, To feel first-hand the toll, and no one should. But sometimes it feels like because you didn’t go through that sacrifice, you are not “allowed” to participate with Israel’s current event, to be heard. It feels like you don’t have the legitimacy to do so. There will always be people who are going to make you feel that way, and that’s a challenge for a relationship.

But there is a way. Through acknowledgments and appreciation, we can still talk about our shared future as the Jewish people. We need to talk about how every action taken by Israel effects the Jewish world while still acknowledging the toll Israel has paid and is still paying every day for security. My very smart wife once told me, “Ze lo Bimkom,” it is not overlapping. Pain is felt in Israel, and pain felt in the diaspora are both painful. It shouldn’t be about who suffered more.

And like the Yoms, we need to endure that conversation with mixed feelings. We need to feel sorrow, but also hope, to enjoy but always remember, together, we have a bright future.