Honoring our fallen soldiers

The pain has not dulled, the grief still grips our souls.

Mount Herzl military cemetery (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Mount Herzl military cemetery
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israeli society is built in such a way that there is no one who is not connected to someone who fell during their IDF service, either during or between wars. Sometimes it’s a loved one from your immediate or extended family, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, or a fellow soldier. They may be secular or religious Jews, Druse, or members of other religions.
The eve of Remembrance Day begins with a one-minute siren during which everyone across the country stands silently, followed the next morning with an additional two-minute siren.
For bereaved families, these two-minute sirens go off day in and day out, all year long, starting the moment we hear about the death of a loved one.
There is nothing in the world that can stop this siren.
The pain, sorrow and longing for loved ones are constant. What do we remember? How do we commemorate our loved ones? What do we do to preserve their memory? All of these questions help us formulate a way to commemorate our loved ones.
Everyone commemorates their loved ones in their own way. Some people pick a poem, others an object, such as the last photograph or letter they have of their fallen soldier. When we look at these objects, we imagine being with our loved ones and remember what it was like to spend time with them. Sometimes we also imagine what their lives would have been like, and think about all the things they’re missing out on.
The word “commemoration” includes all our wishful thinking and transforms our thoughts and desires into something eternal. Remembrance Day is one of the cornerstones of Israel’s national commemoration.
It plants in our hearts the feeling that commemoration is not ephemeral, that all the different people in our beautiful heterogeneous nation are embracing us and telling us that the memory of our loved ones will not be forgotten. The Israeli people will remember their fallen forever for the sake of the state and each and every one of us living here.
I know how hard Remembrance Day is for all of us. The pain has not dulled, the grief still grips our souls. But in Chapter 16 of the Book of Ezekiel, we are commanded, “With your blood, live.” Each and every one of our loved ones is a link in the miraculous chain of the continuation of our people.
With each new loss, we experience our own bereavement again. Each soldier who dies deepens our wound that refuses to heal. We hope with all our might that others won’t have to experience the pain we know so well. The Israeli people must not lose hope that one day we will blessed to live in a time of quiet.
The author is the chairwoman of IDF Widows and Orphans Organization (IDFWO) and widow of Lt.-Col. Ehud Shelach who fell during the Yom Kippur War.