Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Learning to Appreciate (Israeli) Memorial Day

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageI grew up in a safe world, or so it seemed.  People weren’t killed, wars weren’t fought, things didn’t blow up…or so it seemed.

My father did a stint in the US military – they drafted in those days, as did his father and my mother’s father for World War II.  They didn’t talk about it…war came, went, and for Americans was a far away thing.

When I grew older in the US there was no “war” per say, but suddenly there was drive by shootings, car jackings, and violent home invasions.  The world was less safe…and I bought a gun (as one can legally in the US).

On 9/11 I was headed to the airport for a business trip in New Jersey, my children in a school across from Manhattan…we watched the Twin Towers burn and wondered what would be.

When we moved to Israel, when we moved home, yes to our eternal homeland, we stopped worrying about drive by shootings, car jackings, and violent home invasions.  The society is safer than the US, even with threats of terrorism.  But coming home comes with a responsibility, to care for it, to make it better…to protect it.

My children surprised me.  We are part of that religious sector that generally doesn’t do the military – there are exemptions, other options, etc. 

My oldest daughter accepted (she could have easily exempted) draft from the Israeli Air Force.  We said no, she said yes.  She was going to protect her land, doing what she could.  Her service was generally unremarkable…except when her base was under rocket attack.  She lost a commander, one not so much older than her, during her service, meaning her commander was killed in the line of duty, on a training mission when a transport helicopter crashed.  She makes a point of not missing a Memorial Day service.

My oldest son received his draft notice as he finished yeshiva.  We could have worked the system to get him other options, he just quietly said he’s going in.  He was part of Netzach Yehuda, the ultra-orthodox combat battalion.  It wasn’t as good as advertised, his unit was sent off as a base security unit and improperly supervised religiously, but he did his service.  At the end they offered him to stay, be a professional soldier…in the army rabbinute (army chaplain corp).  They trained him to be a kosher supervisor, including for combat field kitchens, and to be part of body recovery – dealing with soldiers killed in combat.  Last night he was part of a Memorial ceremony, and he is spending this Memorial Day in a military cemetery standing honor guard over the fallen.

Children dealing with service, death and sacrifice for their home.  That’s what a Memorial Day is, particularly in Israel.

Two more of my children are in army preparation.  One has entered an army electronics training program, and one gung ho son tried out for (and will be in) the paratroopers and special forces.

We can debate whether Israel is a proper Jewish country, whether it does the right religious things, whether it’s the time for a Jewish government or whether we should wait for Moshiach.  But when Jewish lives are on the line and the Land of Israel, G-d’s gift to the Jewish people and our eternal homeland, is at risk…there are young Jewish men and women who are willing to stand up and put their lives on the line.

Sadly “they” keep trying to kill us and destroy what all these Jews have built, so service and sacrifice is still necessary.

On Memorial Day we remember, and appreciate, and stand with those families.

I worry for my children doing their part, and have no idea where they got the strength and will from.  And thank G-d and pray that my children are kept safe, though they are serving to make sure I am kept safe.

In Israel Memorial Day is not a remote thing, not about distant wars, not about something that happened a generation ago.  I learned that from my kids.


  1. I also had kids serving in the army despite their religious affiliation but although I appreciate your sentiments, I don't think your definition of Memorial Day is quite correct. Yom Hazikaron is not to commemorate those who serve or served under difficult and life threatening conditions. It is to memorialize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, those whose lives were actually cut short for their country, OUR country, as well as those who died simply for being in Israel in terror attacks. While we must appreciate everyone who is doing his/her part, that is not the point of this day, in my opinion.

    My apologies if I misunderstood your post.

  2. First, everyone that does what he deems is "his/her duty" they enter a zone of POTENTIAL tragedy; they could chv"s lose their lives while serving our homeland. So, Yom HaZikaron is about those who were plucked from us in defense of our homeland; but those still here are in that POTENTIAL Zone of possibility.

    Next, Kol HaKavod for the tremendous heartfelt determination of your children. And if I remember, after you first arrived here there were issues which consumed you about their klita. B"H they turned out beautifully. Hopefully, they will bring the spark of yiddishkeit and Love of HaShem with them, and be able to influence in a quiet way the others around them.

    Finally, Memorial Day in America was the same, about those who fell in service. How more appropriate to do so for the Israeli neshomas doing the same.

  3. This post is featured in the Independence Day Havel Havelim, 5776, 2016.

    Thanks and Chag Sameach!


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