I''m currently in the United States, visiting family members and raising funds for a new shul in Maale Adumim. Since making aliyah this past July, I''ve been back twice, once in November and now.
It''s not unusual, I think, to make mental notes of differences between American and Israeli ways, and to observe how we do things differently. The other day was a case in point.
Monday, May 30th in America was Memorial Day. Monday, May 9th in Israel was also Memorial Day. Being in each country during this solemn period, I have to say that Israel takes the day more seriously.
In Israel, the national day of remembrance of fallen soldiers and terror victims begins the night before, with a national sense of mourning pervading the country. In the morning, a 2 minute siren sounds, during which time everything stops, and throughout the day, families gather in military cemeteries, to pray, to remember, to say Kaddish for those who gave their lives for a free Israel.
This past Israeli Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron), over 22,000 were mourned, and with Israel''s Jewish population being what it is, there is hardly a home that is unaffected by the tone and tenor of the day. Much of the country''s cultural life seems to wind down as well during this time, knowing that the mood of the day hardly lends itself to recreation and levity.
Here in America, I was reminded of Memorial Day yesterday not by what I saw, but what I didn''t see or hear or feel. My parents and sister and I went to Foxwoods in the afternoon, a huge (I mean HUGE) complex of casinos, hotels and entertainment venues. As I sat there, surrounded by hundreds of people and amidst the incessant bells and noises declaring winners, it occurred to me from out of the blue: Hey, today is Memorial Day!
I got up from my chair, looked around the cavernous but filled-to-the-brim casino (one of more than a half dozen in the complex), and wondered if anyone was aware that today was the national day of mourning for America''s fallen soldiers. As I walked around, I saw that there were no tears in Foxwoods, except, perhaps, for the big money swallowed up by the hungry machines.
In America, there are Memorial Day sales, stores are open, and except for banks and municipal and federal offices, things are pretty much as usual. It could be because America has not had a war fought here for a long time, thank God, and the majority of Americans feel far removed from the dangers, and sacrifices, of war. And yet, one would think that if Americans really supported troops overseas and took serious note of deaths due to helping other countries promote freedom and democracy, there would be a kind of pall over America on this day.
But there were no tears in Foxwoods, neither were there any on the golf course where President Obama played yesterday. He placed a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, met with families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and then went to play golf, as he did on Memorial Day 2009.
The President took the club, but better he and America should join the club- of those countries, like Israel, that take Memorial Day as a day of reflection, prayer and cessation of activity, in honor and memory of those who died so we can live freely.
You can follow me on elanadler.com