A site of remembrance and reflection

This year’s AACI National Memorial Ceremony for North Americans who fell in wars and terror attacks will pay special tribute to soldiers who fell in action during the Yom Kippur War.

AACI Grove (photo credit: Courtesy)
AACI Grove
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the Jerusalem Hills, near the vital pass of Sha’ar Hagai – where fierce battles raged in 1948 – stands a forest established by the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) in conjunction with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. A memorial wall punctuates the site, dedicated to more than 320 North American citizens who fell in wars or terror attacks.
Julian Landau and Etan Flatow will join relatives and friends at this site of remembrance and reflection at the annual AACI National Memorial Ceremony on October 14 at 4 p.m. The event is open to the public.
Landau’s son, Yair, fell in battle in eastern Lebanon on June 11, 1982, just two days after his 23rd birthday. Flatow’s sister Alisa was killed in a terrorist attack on a bus in Kfar Darom on April 9, 1995, at age 20.
Landau, the national treasurer of AACI and an active member of the organizing committee, attends the ceremony almost every year.
“If there is something that commemorates Yair or his memory, then for me it’s important,” says Landau, who made aliya in 1969, when Yair was 10.
This year’s AACI memorial will be the first for Flatow, who was not quite 12 when his oldest sister was killed by an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber. Flatow will light the memorial torch at the start of the ceremony.
Since making aliya from New Jersey in 2007, Flatow has been the manager of a branch of Jerusalem’s Village Green restaurant and recently opened his own eatery, Morgens, in the German Colony.
“We have a lot of AACI customers who know me from my restaurant and Village Green, and they approached me about coming to the memorial,” he says. “My parents have been in touch with AACI over the years, but they were never in Israel at the right time to take part in the ceremony.”
Flatow, now 30, feels that such events perpetuate the memory of Alisa, whose name graces memorial gardens in Rishon Lezion and Ra’anana, as well as the Jerusalem campus of the Nishmat Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women.
“It has been almost 19 years since my sister was killed, and I don’t want to say she’s being forgotten about, but some of my employees weren’t even alive at the time of the attack. If we don’t memorialize these things, they get forgotten about,” says Flatow.
His married sisters Gail, Francine and Ilana live with their families in Bergenfield, New Jersey.
This year’s keynote speaker is Nobel laureate Yisrael Aumann, a professor of mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a founder of its Center for the Study of Rationality. Aumann’s son, Shlomo, was killed during the 1982 Lebanon War while serving as a tank gunner in the Armored Corps. Aumann’s talk is titled “The Fallen Speak.”
Donna Grushka, longtime co-chair of the event with Rabbi Jay Karzen, says this year’s ceremony will pay special tribute to soldiers of US or Canadian origin who fell in action during the Yom Kippur War 40 years ago. Youth group members will relate short biographies of some of these soldiers.
“I feel that we have an obligation, as a North American community here, to remember and honor other North Americans who made the sacrifice for this country,” says Grushka.
The annual ceremony is organized in coordination with KKL-JNF. Expenses are defrayed by the sale of KKL-JNF tree certificates through AACI, as well as several small grants.
Grushka explains that the first trees in the AACI Grove were planted following the Six Day War in 1967 to honor the memory of North American olim and members of their families who lost their lives in that conflict. Due to the initiative of bereaved parents such as Yehuda Ben-Chorin and Eliezer Whartman, the forest was dedicated as the AACI memorial site on July 7, 1977. In 1983, the forest was enlarged with the planting of more than 1,000 additional trees, and the memorial wall was erected.
The site was upgraded in 2002.
“The scope has since been expanded to include those who fell in the pre-state days and in terrorist attacks, including tourists and temporary residents, as well as associate members and their families from other English-speaking countries,” says Grushka.
The bilingual ceremony always takes place around the High Holy Day season and begins with the unveiling of any new plaques.
“Thank God there are no new plaques this year,” says Landau.
Brief remarks from AACI and KKL-JNF officials, musical interludes, the laying of wreaths and the recitation of kaddish and Psalms are part of the program. Landau notes that US Ambassador Dan Shapiro has been taking part since assuming office in 2011.
For more information and transportation details, call the AACI national office at (02) 566-1181.