HomeMay 2024The Cost

The Cost

Memories and Meaning

A Google search led me to this explanation of Memorial Day in America: Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Many people attend parades, go to the beach or have cook-outs with friends and family. But at its heart, Memorial Day is a day when Americans reflect on the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in military service. I found page-upon-page of Memorial Day Barbecue recipes and many teasers for upcoming Memorial Day sales. I was not unfamiliar with these methods of commemoration because I am a child of America.
    Growing up, I paid little attention to the unimaginable sacrifices that helped form the fragile roots of a blossoming America. I shopped and beached and “met up” with like-minded teens or attended family back-yard barbecues where my cousins and I rolled our eyes at our embarrassing parents. We awaited the exciting lives that lay ahead because we were secure in our beauty, brilliance and the promise of America. Memorial Day didn’t weigh very much.
    Many of these intro-to-summer shindigs happened in the home that my parents contracted for and custom built on Long Island in 1969. There had been a mighty disagreement about the placement of the front door, which would determine our address: Would we forever live on the blah-ly named Third Street or a more dramatic Waukena Avenue?
    Twenty-six years later, I would build my own Jerusalem home and the street name was a non-issue. What mattered was the placement of the bomb shelter, window gates, and proximity to security forces. We didn’t worry about our educational and spiritual needs because, by law, every community – secular or Torah observant—boasted two synagogues, a mikveh (ritual bath), along with kindergartens, and public religious and secular schools, respectively.
    In Israel, I would discover that every family boasted a soldier or few and/or post-high school teens who were performing national service. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is a constant presence and, when not on the battlefield, the soldiers are home on leave. In uniform, they drive their children to school, sing zmirot at the Sabbath table, shop for working wives and schmooze with old friends over endless cups of black coffee and shesh besh (backgammon) while sitting in the town square, awaiting their military posting. Our army is a people’s army and it forms the most glorious section of our Israeli tapestry, khaki-green and gorgeous.
    Standing in solidarity with the rest of our nation, it is incumbent on us to reflect upon the cost of holding onto our isolated Jewish nation. We’ve attended funerals, including those for the parent or sibling of our child’s classmate. We comfort the mourners at the shiva homes and offer sincere words of comfort. But can a parent or spouse or child of a dead soldier ever feel comfort? We “soldier on” because we are a nation of righteous warriors.
  Those who gave their lives in defense of the only Jewish nation are revered and studied by schoolchildren and the adult populace. Our restaurants and shopping malls are closed on Yom HaZicharon, only open for groceries in the late afternoons for the upcoming Yom HaAtzmaut (Indepence Day), which will joyously erupt immediately after the official closure of the day of national remembrance. We dare not celebrate our establishment and autonomy without paying homage to those who paid the ultimate price.
    In Israel, history and faith are intrinsically woven into a vibrant hodge-podge of mirth and mourning. We owe our miraculous existence to G-d’s divine plan.  United and without hubris, together we can acknowledge the unbridled sacrifices that brought us to this day.

New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.

 

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