The Dam HaMaccabim Project blossoms in time for Yom Hazikaron

Three young men bringing Yom Hazikaron from the ceremonies to the streets.

By
May 8, 2019 01:39
4 minute read.
The Dam HaMaccabim Project blossoms in time for Yom Hazikaron

A civilian and a soldier wearing the memorial flower. (photo credit: EFRAT COHEN)

When Natan Alterman wrote his iconic poem, “Magash Hakesef” (The Silver Platter), about grief and rebirth just before the State of Israel was established, he tapped into a heartbreaking reality. As Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, put it, “No state is ever handed to a people on a silver platter.” This rings true everywhere in the world, but is especially appropriate for our precious slither of the Middle East – Israel.

That is why Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen (Yom Hazikaron) comes one day before Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut). There would be no state if not for the blood of the soldiers and the tears of their loved ones.

While attending a memorial ceremony is powerful, three young men felt it was not enough. They had a dream to bring Yom Hazikaron from the ceremonies to the streets, from the minute of silence during the memorial siren to every moment of this significant day.
Their names are Ariyel Maresky, Natan Spero and Shabi Spero, and their Dam HaMaccabim Project seeks to remember those who fell, stand with those who lost loved ones, and unite a country in paying tribute to them.

Remember those little floral stickers that pop up throughout Yom Hazikaron? That sticker is of the Dam HaMaccabim (The Blood of the Maccabees, also known as the Red Everlasting), which is the official memorial flower. According to tradition, wherever a Maccabi warrior fell, his blood was absorbed into the depths of the land and from it sprung the beautiful flower with a blood-red blossom.

The Dam HaMaccabim is a delicate flower that grows in specific parts of Israel’s wilderness and has never been available for mass distribution. That is why it has previously been substituted with stickers handed out at Yom Hazikaron ceremonies.

“The flower and its powerful impact were lost once they were transformed into a two-dimensional sticker,” says Natan. “We wanted to bring the flower back to life.”
The idea was to have the real flower given out and worn proudly by everyone – from children to grandparents – during Yom Hazikaron. Thus the three men founded the Dam HaMaccabim Project, with Maresky as director of Foreign Relations, Natan Spero as director of Development and Shabi Spero as executive manager.

For the last two years, with the help of agricultural experts, they have worked hard to grow the red flower. Not only were they tasked with finding a place suitable for the growth of these protected flowers, but they needed to find a way to enable the Dam HaMaccabim to flower at least three months earlier than their regular blossom. This was vital to have the time to package and send them off to people both in Israel and abroad.

It was no easy feat but finally, together with Zion Siman Tov, a specialist on Israel’s wild flowers, they managed to successfully grow the treasured Dam HaMaccabim flowers in a field in Kerem Maharal on Mount Carmel.

“After two years of failed experiments, when we first walked into the greenhouse and saw an entire field of blood red flowers, we knew,” Shabi Spero said. “We knew that despite the little time we had left until Yom Hazikaron, we were going to do our first pilot this year, whatever it takes.

“It was literally a field of dreams. The dreams we’ve had for two years, and the dreams we have for the future – the dream of each of those thousands of flowers in the field being worn across the globe in unity and solidarity with the young women and men who gave up their own dreams, so that we can realize ours.”

The pilot project comprises 30,000 flowers. It has involved a long process including growing, picking, drying, preserving and finally individual packaging, when the flower is set in a pin to be ready for distribution.

But the rollercoaster ride has been more than worth it for these three men who have not faltered with their clear mission in mind from the get-go. Their mission is that the Yom Hazikaron message – one of sacrifice, solidarity and unity – will be symbolized by the flower and worn throughout Israel and the Diaspora.
“Our goal is to remember and to remind ourselves that we are all part of one living human tapestry,” says Maresky. “We seek to strengthen the unseverable bond that has united our people since the beginning of time.”

The Dam Hamaccabim Project is a non-profit organization funded both by private and public donations, as well as being sold to commercial clients and organizations. All the proceeds go straight into funding the following year’s flower distributions. You too can contribute by checking out the project at www.redeverlasting.org

Yaffa Abadi is a content writer and social media manager, studying philosophy and literature


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