Memorial Day For the Fallen Soldiers and The Victims of Terror

I’ll start with a confession. I had a really hard time deciding if I should write this post. Due to the emotional state I’m in on Memorial Day, and due to the fact that I fear I’d make some horrible cynical use of it, which is not my intention. But since this the medium I chose for myself almost a year ago, here it goes.

Tonight and tomorrow, just before the celebrations of Israel’s 64th Independance day, Israel mentions Memorial Day. Now, I don’t really know how it goes in many other countries, but for me, here, in Israel, is a day words cannot describe. 24 hours in which life nearly stops still. Whrere politics takes a nap. Where TV shuts off its’ regular programming and commercials are nowhere to be seen or heard. Where families visit graves. Where many ceremonies are held. Where sad songs of loss and death and pain are heard on all radio stations.

2 sirens echo during that day in Israel. Tonight for one minute, and tomorrow morning for two minutes.

Israel’s Memorial Day was initially called “The Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers”. In 1998, it was also decieded to officialy honor within the same capacity, victims of terror attacks (the first terror attack dated on March 17th, 1953. The last one – last night [one injured;]). Thus, today it is called “The Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and The Victims of Terror”. As of tonight, the number of people honored by this day are 22,993.

The day honors eveyone: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Russains, Ethiopians, Religious, Secular, Druze, Beduion and more of the Israeli soceity tapestry.

In this day I constantly hear two main issues rising – the memory of the fallen with the pain of loss, and the burning desire for peace, for the end of war and bloodshed. For the number to stop rising. It echoes in the President’s speech. The Prime Minister’s voice. The Cheif of Staff’s tone. They may change throughout the years, the desire never does.

When I was little, the Camp David negotiations were taking place. I remember everyone being hopeful, so hopeful, wishing that finally some peace will come. That the army would be dismantled. The following year, of course, saw the begining of the worst round of violence and blood shed ever. And yet here we are, over a decade past it, with new changes and uprisings all around us threatening even the peace treaty with Egypt, and though many may have lost faith in the other side and in the chance for peace, the majority still holds onto the want. To the need of peace. And it echoes in this day, with everyone you talk to, so loudly.

One of my favorite poems, taught in high school Literature class, is frequently mentioned in this day. A poem by Shaul Tchernichovsky, framed simply by the phrase [roughly translated: ] “You see, O Earth, how very wasteful we’ve been“. A poem written during The Arab Revolt of 1936, crying for the loss of life, cursing the earth for accepting so many bodies into it and still at the same time producing life in the form of plants.

And today. On this day. There’s something about it, and about the two main issues rising and echoing, that makes me really glad to be living here. On this side of the map. On this little next-to-nothing-yet-full-of-something piece of land. True, the conflicts go on. Wars never really end. The 126 casualties of the past year would not be the last. But taking the time, to hear the families’ stories over the news and ceremonies, to remember, to honor, to stand still and not allow life to completely go by… honestly, I hoped when i started writing that if I just keep going I’ll find the words to describe it. I didn’t.

So with the false hope that wars will end, and conflicts will be resolved, and blood won’t be shed anymore, I bid you good night.

Related Posts:

The Wars of Israel

The following is a short list of the wars Israel had. Though it’s long for only 64 years (Israel is surrounded by enemies, and as the changes in Egypt show is still and perhaps always will be), i refered to it as “short” because it only mentions the official wars. Not the “rounds” of terror and violence, and the various operations that did not develop to war. It’s sad, really, to think of so many hatred and violence and unnecessary death, which is why I’m adding this list, I guess.

Year War Against
1948-1949 Independence War (a.k.a. 1948 Arab-Israeli War) Egypt
Syria
Jordan
Iraq
Lebanon
Saudi Arabia
Casos Belli: The partition plan approved by the UN. Officialy the war began when British Mandate forces left the territory after the plan was approved and Israel announced independance.
1956 Suez Crisis (a.k.a The Sinai War) Egypt
Casos Belli:

  1. The Fadyeen terror acts – with the silent knowledge and approval of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Palestinian terrorists inflitrated Israel from their territory (mostly from the Gaza Strip, under Egyptian territory) and committing terror activities against Israeli citizens.
  2. Egypt blocking only Israeli passage through the Tiran Straits.
1967 The Six-Days War Egypt
Jordan
Syria
Lebanon
Casos Belli: Egypt blocking only Israeli passage through the Tiran Straits (again!). Egyptian President Nassar demanded UN forces deployed around the borders after the 1956 war would return to their stations, in anticipation of the war.

PLO President, Ahmad Shukeiri, told reported before the war about Israelis: “Those who survive will remain in Palestine. I estimate that none of them will survive.” (there’s a dispute over the translation, should it be “I estimate” or “It is my understanding”. I chose the less harsh one).

1969-1970 War of Attrition Egypt
Casos Belli: Numerous Egyptian attacks on Israeli troops.
1973 Yom Kippur War Egypt
Syria
Jordan
Casos Belli: Syrian and Egyptian armies attacked Israel on Yom Kippur of 1973.
1982-1983 Lebanon War (a.k.a Operation Peace for Galilee) PLO
Hezbollah
Syria
Casos Belli:

  1. Palestinian Organizations exiled from Jordan and finding home in Lebanon, operating with terror against Israel from Lebanese territory, including heavy rocket fire on Israeli civilian populations.
  2. The attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador to the UK.
In this war, The South Lebanon Army fought alongside Israel against the terror militias. After Israel’s full withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the South Lebanon Army dispersed. Hezbollah only grow stronger (with much help of Syria and Iran).
1991 The Gulf War Not an Active Party!
Casos Belli: United States along with dozens of countries throughout the world engaged in a war against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Saddam Hussain fired 137 rockets at Israel during that war, in the hopes of dragging it to fight and having the Arab countries withdrawal, not wanting to fight alongside Israel.
2006 The Second Lebanon War Hezbollah
Casos Belli: Hezbollah terror group terrorists cross the international border, attack an Israeli patrol (“cross-border attack”!) and kidnap two Israeli soldiers back to Lebanon.

(It should be noted that in many of the more earlier wars, many countries sent aid to the fighting Arab countries. For instance, the Six Days War also has troops from Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Suadi Arabia and more).

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