Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Minute

Last year, when the siren went off for one minute in the evening to mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron יום הזכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה‎ (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror), a time when everyone stops what they are doing and stands in silence, Morey and I were home alone. The following day when the siren went off for a full two minutes (again, standing in silence), we were in Ulpan, Hebrew class. For the majority of us, this was our first Yom HaZikaron as Israelis. There was a sense of solidarity of being a people together on this day, but there was also a distinct separateness. We'd only been in the country, most of us, for a few months. We understood the loss this day memorializes, but we couldn't really feel it.

That was really driven home when we went to the ceremony at the school that hosted the Ulpan class. The students and faculty memorialized their former students and classmates, along with the brothers, fathers, uncles, sons and friends they had lost. To see these normally boisterious teenage boys crumbling into the arms of their teachers, tears shamelessly pouring down their young faces, really made us appreciate the difference between the new kids and the "real" Israelis.

This year, thank God, I'm still a new kid. But this year, because I'm in hospital (that's a different post altogether), when the siren went off in the evening, I was standing with a very mixed group of people. I knew no one, and no one knew me. We were all Israelis standing together in a moment of silence for our fallen soldiers, for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countrymates, and for the families who now have a gaping hole where a loved one once stood. An entirely different feeling.

The interesting part of experiencing the siren at the hospital, is that everyone is welcome at this hospital, as in every hospital within Israel. That means, standing outside with us were Arabs. Arab Israelis are exempt from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, yet some choose to. Most are Druze or Bedouin, but some Arab Israeli do serve. For the most part, there's no way to tell if someone is Arab Muslim, Arab Christian, Druze, modernized Bedouin and there's no way to tell if that person is anti-Israel or supportive of Israel.

So here we are, all of us standing together, when the siren goes off that memorializes Israeli soldiers who have died mainly in wars and situations fighting Arab armies and terrorists. The Arabs around me kept talking and ignored the siren, but I noticed they talked quietly. Were they ignoring something they felt didn't apply to them, but being respectful at the same time? Or was it just the environment of being at a hospital? I'll never know, but as I go back to my room and say hello to my lovely Arab nurse, and think about the Arab doctor who was the one who finally figured out what was wrong with me, and the Arab man in the room next to me whose family is gathered around him, never leaving him alone, I realize it's yet another beautiful, crazy dichotomy of living in Israel.

May Hashem bless the souls of the fallen, the families who live with the loss daily, may their memories be for a blessing upon all of us and may the day come when we no longer add any names to the list of those to remember.


Rachel Inbar said...

Beautiful post. I hope you're all better soon!

Deena said...

Thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to write about that. It is basically always an experience, wherever you end up for the siren. (Except last week when I slept through it.)

You mentioned Arabs... So, I watched on TV the tekes at the Kotel. At the end, they were about to start singing Hatikva and suddenly the muezins starting calling the Muslims of the Old City to prayer. What did the people running the tekes do? Act as if there weren't deafening muezins and sang Hatikva.

I'd be a million (something) that people sang it louder this year than they have for many years. You could say that was in order to be heard over the loud Arab singing/chanting but it also might be to say, "We are proud of our country. We're a bit messed up but we plan to stay so you may as well get used to that."

My own interpretation...

Refua shleima!