“Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city!” (Isaiah 52:1)
We sat and watched the ceremony. We watched the lighting of the beacons in remembrance of those who had fallen in the defence of Israel. We watched as the cameras focused on members of the bereaved families and heard their stories. We listened to women who lost their husbands, men who lost their sons, children who lost their fathers and families who lost mothers, sisters and daughters. The tears began to fall – a flow of tears for all those whose lives ended as a result of war and terrorism.
Last night at sundown began Yom HaZikaron, our National Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror in Israel. It started with a minute-long siren in the evening, when we stood in silence in honour of the fallen. It continued with another two-minute siren this morning. Cars stopped in the middle of the highways and on local streets and driver and passenger alike stood outside the vehicles until the siren ended. Schools and public places around the country had special ceremonies to make this special day. And through the evening, night and day, there were the of the 23,544 soldiers, men and women, who gave their lives for our freedom, so Israel could live in the land of its fathers, the land given to it by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob over 3000 years ago.
At sundown today, the country will go through what sometimes appears to be impossible transition, from sadness to joy, from mourning to celebration. The evening of of the end of Yom HaZikaron marks the beginning of Israel’s Independence Day, this year – it’s 69th.
Three score and nine years ago, this nation arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, its people coming from all corners of the earth, bringing with them a dream and a hope to forge a future that would help to overcome the past, a past filled with hatred against Jews, simply because they were Jews. Since its founding, Israel has been and remains under attack, engaged in a fight for her life. The attacks take many forms, but they have a common purpose – to remove Jews from this land and, sometimes, from every other land as well. Today, we remember those who struggled here, so that the living may endure and hold on to the land of promise.
As we mark the beginning of the 70th year of the Nation of Israel in her own land, we continue to pray for protection by God, who watches over the nation as the pupil of His eye. May we pray that He would watch over, protect and strengthen the soldiers who put their lives on the line daily for her, and for the day when Israel will replace her spirit of mourning for garments of praise (Isaiah 61:3).