The ceremony was unique in several ways, including the fact that it took place at one of the most apropos sites in the country, Ammunition Hill. Ammunition Hill was liberated by our brave fighting forces, with their blood soaking the very ground we stood on today. The beautiful trees that now flourish are nurtured by the same young spilt blood.
As I arrived at the ceremony, I noticed that the participants were not just my coworkers, but in fact people of all ages and backgrounds. There was interestingly even a group of about ten little children.
When the siren blared, the children, despite being only five or six years old, stood at attention, and seemed to understand quite well what was going on. At first I admired the accompanying teachers for seemingly explaining to them how to behave appropriately and respect the moment.
However, as the siren continued to ring deep inside each of us, I wondered what these children were thinking. Were any of their parents killed in action? Murdered by terrorists? What about their older siblings? What will these children be when they grow up? What are the chances of them losing a relative to war or terror?
Will they all be blessed to live long healthy lives? Or…
It was hard to push these horrible thoughts out of my head, so I let them run their course. I realized that everyone who we commemorate today was also once a little child playing in the sand, just as these innocent little children were as the ceremony proceeded.
My turn to read finally came around. I read my assigned passage, entitled “We do not Have Unknown Soldiers”. Here in Israel, everyone knows that each and every fallen soldier or victim is somebody. They have families, friends, people who care and remember. The pain is personal. As the passage continues, “we don’t have a grave of the unknown soldier”.
On July 21, 2014, in attending a funeral for a lone soldier, I learned this lesson in the most poignant way possible. A lone soldier, Sean Carmeli, whose family lived abroad, was killed in action in Gaza. People immediately took to Facebook and Twitter calling for all who can to attend. The result? Over 20,000 people showed up. The lone soldier was not alone.
I pray for the days when I can see little children attending a memorial ceremony and think only that I am impressed with the level of decorum expressed, not of any further suffering.