Jewish History Blog

Days of Memory

IDF soldiers' honor guard for a fallen soldier in the War of Independence

These few weeks are crowded with special days of memory, especially here in Israel. Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Ha Zikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers), and Yom Ha Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) all come upon us in swift succession. They are really the framework for the Israeli psyche governing our national mood and policies. The rest of the world does not and perhaps cannot understand where we are coming from.

Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) has taught us that if someone arises and intends to exterminate the Jewish people as official policy, we will not have any real protectors in the world to defend us. In the past, our erstwhile friends, whether FDR or Churchill, did next to nothing to prevent the Holocaust from occurring. It is unlikely that Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is any more reliable.

The leaders of the world, if they are not latent anti-Semites, are overtly unrealistic. They prefer not to get it. So they conclude that Shiite Iran does not mean what it says when it regularly proclaims our eventual destruction. But Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) comes to remind us that reality differs from naïve hopes and ill-thought policies.

The fecklessness of the world in the face of militant Islam, unabating terrorism, and rogue nuclear armed states inspires little confidence here in Israel. We may say “never again,” but deep down in our hearts we know that “again” remains a distinct possibility.

The world wants us to get over the Holocaust while at the same time is creating a scenario that constantly reminds us of its reoccurence. People who are bitten by large dogs do not walk on the same side of the street where Rottweilers are present.

The Jewish people have paid a heavy price for maintaining our little state. Tens of thousands of Jews have been killed and continue to die for its preservation. The Arab world has basically never come to terms with the reality of the existence of the State of Israel. Constant war, mindless terrorism, unceasing incitement, never ending accusations, fabrications and biased UN resolutions have been the daily fare of the State of Israel since its inception.

We can never lose a war, but we are never allowed to win one either. So Yom Ha Zikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Israeli Soldiers) tragically becomes a regular occurrence in our lives. Golda Meir may have fabulously expressed mourning over the deaths of the Arabs in their struggles against our existence, but the Arabs have never expressed such regrets.

The Ayatollahs of Iran say that they willing to lose fifteen million(!) Iranians in order to eradicate the State of Israel. It is hard to see how one can come to an accommodation with such bloodthirsty, uncaring fanatics whose value for human life, theirs and certainly ours, is so cheap. So Yom Ha Zikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers) comes to remind us of the real world and the heartbreaking cost that Israel has paid and continues to pay for survival.

Pious platitudes about peace do not change the reality of murderous intent on the ground. We have been down that road too many times in the past to be seduced to go there again.

The miracle of the past century was and remains the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. Yom Ha Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) has to be viewed in that light. The tragedy is that this miracle, unlike Chanukah and Purim, had no religious leadership that could have cloaked it with the necessary ritual that would have made the day meaningful to all sections of Israeli and Jewish society. Having a barbecue in the park hardly makes it a memorable day, a tradition of observance that can be passed on to later generations.

Those of us who were alive when the state came into being and experienced all the pangs of its establishment are a fast-disappearing breed. The deniers amongst us, certainly in the non-Jewish world, already distort and falsify the story. The victim has become the oppressor and Goliath struts around the world stage as David. Yom Ha Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) should come to remind us of the real story of Jewish heroism and triumph against all odds.

It should also remind the world that even though it is popular and oh so politically correct and progressively noble to damn Israel, in the long run it is very counterproductive to do so. Just ask the Soviet Union! So let us take these days to heart and stand tall for our God and land.

For more on the aftermath of the Holocaust and the birth of the state of Israel, please see our documentary film Faith and Fate 6: The Miracle of Israel, 1945-1948.

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Posted in:
Holocaust, Israel/ Zionism, Modern Jewish History
Rabbi Berel Wein
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  • April 19, 2010

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