From Memorial Day to Independence Day - the responsibility of grief

Since upon the passing of the fallen, a void remains, and the void has to be filled with values and action.

Soldiers saluting graves ahead of Israel's Memorial Day at Mount Hertzl (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Soldiers saluting graves ahead of Israel's Memorial Day at Mount Hertzl
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The essence of what it means to be Israeli, as I've learned over the years, can be refined into those few special minutes, that are always with us in the seam between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Tears of sorrow and pride blend together – and for a moment, it seems that all the stories, the memories, the longing, and the power – encompass a whole nation.
Right there, in those minutes that carry us from memory into independence, and from the gun salute to the fireworks of joy, the moral compass of the people who returned to its homeland after thousands of years in the diaspora, groups, and endows us with the holy duty of upholding the Will of the fallen but, what is that Will? To choose life. Right, this is a well-known phrase, but what does it mean? Is it even possible? 
Over the last few years, as part of my role as the CEO of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, I stand in admiration before the enormous mental strength of thousands of widows and orphans, who despite having their world collapse around them with no way to be ready for such calamity, choose to enrich our world with brave and clear sounds of growth and continuity, of action and creation.

 
The ability to take in such a massive tragedy seems at times like an impossible task. Grief becomes another invisible limb. It’s there when you have to prepare sandwiches for the kid’s school or stand at the graduation ceremony, with a pinch in the heart at the sight of the other fathers. He’s there. Present. But beyond its lasting presence, grief also imposes upon us an immense responsibility. Since upon the passing of the fallen, a void remains, and the void has to be filled with values and actions. Since the heavy price paid by so many families, has to be repaid by us by honoring the legacy of the fallen, and most of all, by establishing a better society, a fair, loving, and more accepting society.
However, regretfully, it seems that this past year brought to the front stage the extreme voices of discourse, the disputes, and the rampant hatred in the Israeli public sphere. The turmoil that sweeps across the entire world, including the State of Israel, due to the coronavirus crisis, paints reality in a somewhat different and unfamiliar light. The distance that was enforced upon all of us, and the fact that we will not be able to visit the cemeteries this year, require that we should bond – without being close. A strange paradox.
And perhaps, this year of all years, each and everyone in their home, we will succeed in listening carefully to the sounds that resonate with the bereaved families. Sounds of Zionism, love of mankind, dedication, and great hope. The sound of heroes, who chose normalcy in an abnormal world. Since this is the essence of being Israeli, remember? Sadness and joy put together.
וההרים עוד יבערו באש זריחות
ובין ערביים תנשב עוד רוח ים
אלף פרחים עוד יפרחו בין ובתוך שוחות
הם שיעידו, כי זכרנו את כולם.   
Veheharim od boarim beesh zrichot
U vein arbayim od noshevet ruach yam
Elef prachim od yifrechu bein uvetoch shuchot
Hem sheyaidu, ki zacharnu et kulam.
And the mountains they shall burn in the fire of sunrises
And at dusk sea breeze shall blow
A thousand flowers shall blossom between and among the pits
They shall attest, that we remembered them all
The moving lyrics of Didi Menussi, in his song “Those who dreamt”, give us a horizon, but more than everything, highlight that the memories will keep on through a thousand flowers. A thousand flowers, that were planted one by one, by those who decided to keep going allow for the growth of life.
As those widows and orphans, parents and brothers, who remember and keep going, and grow new blossoms, are heroes full of inspiration for the entire nation. Let’s show them that we remember. And love. And embrace them.

Written by the CEO of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization.