A different Memorial Day - opinion

Every fallen soldier has a story to tell, a life that encompasses a whole world.

Israeli Memorial Day 2019  (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Israeli Memorial Day 2019
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
Every year, I commemorate Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s national Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers, at the grave of my father, the late Joseph Danon. My father is one of 23,816 soldiers who gave their lives for all us to live in peace and security in the Land of Israel.
Every fallen soldier has a story to tell, a life that encompasses a whole world. My father, Joseph, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, the eldest of seven children. When he was 10, his family immigrated to Israel and, despite shortages and austerity measures in the maabarah (immigration camp), he grew up connecting with his homeland. He learned every trail, mountain and community, and became one of the best navigators in the IDF’s elite reconnaissance unit. During his reserve duty, he was on a mission in the Jordan Valley when he sustained an injury to his head in a battle with terrorists. This battle wound led to his death after a long struggle.
Perhaps it is fate that the anniversary of my father’s death occurs near the day we remember and mourn the fallen IDF soldiers, and so each year, for me, the personal and the national memory are joined. Each year, I escort my mother to my father’s grave with family and friends, as young soldiers prepare for the state ceremony at Kiryat Shaul cemetery.  As we perform the silent prayer, the soldiers place flags and light candles.
This year, like so many others due to the special circumstances, I will not be able to visit my father's grave on Yom Hazikaron. I will not hear from his friends the same stories of courage, determination and sense of humor that characterized him.
This year, every widow, parent, sibling and orphan who mourns will have to do so alone. They will remember their loved ones through the letters, photos and videos left behind. 
Yom Hazikaron this year will be different. It will be more difficult and challenging for all of us.  As a nation that has sacrificed its best sons for our freedom and safety, over the years we have developed a unique ability to stand together in difficult moments, transforming the concept of mutual guarantee into reality. The social gatherings that accompany this solemn day are a unifying ritual that always eases the pain.
On this Yom Hazikaron, despite the special circumstances, despite the isolation we must endure, we say to the bereaved families loud and clear: even on this day, you are not alone. Today, all of Israel is one family. All of Israel is one proud, bereaved, and united family.

The writer is Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations.