Before the joy of celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, there was the commemoration of Yom HaZikaron.
In assembly, Rabbi Silverman told a story of a Jewish soldier who fought in the German Army during World War One for a regime that would turn on his people. He reminded the girls that for two millennia, Jews have had to fight for countries that did not care for them. With the foundation of the State of Israel, the Jewish people finally have an army to fight for and to fight for us.
As a soldier himself, Rabbi Silverman guarded his country. One Friday night, while singing Lecha Dodi when he was on guard duty, he realised that in Israel, we can only sing Lecha Dodi because there are soldiers standing out there, protecting us. He even missed his brother’s Bar Mitzva, because he was defending a Yishuv so a different family could be together. He was in Gaza, in danger for his life. But why? He asked his Rav, who explained that there is no greater honour than standing in the green uniform to defend Am Yisrael.
Each time a plane lands safely in Israel, every time you go to the Kotel, every time you see children playing in the streets of Israel – it is because of the 24,000 soldiers who gave their lives.
In the afternoon, as part of Mizrachi’s week of Inspiration, Rabbi Andrew Shaw and Rabbi Kenigsberg addressed Years 9 to 12 at both schools, reminding them that, as rockets rain down on Southern Israel, we still have to remember the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the defence of our land.
Today’s siren stops everyone in Israel. Whatever you are doing: driving, eating, at work, in the shuk – in Israel everything stops. The students stood in silence as they watched a film of Israelis standing as the siren wailed. This was followed by a slide show commemorating the victims from this year – the last four of whom were murdered in the past few days.
The presentation included a film of ‘The knock on the door’- the moment when a family is notified. Rabbi Kenigsberg spoke of his own story, 17 years ago, when there was a phone call to his home in South Africa. He had never thought that this would happen. His brother Stephen, along with his Givati unit, were attacked in Gaza. Stephen was killed instantly. He was one of those who were willing to sacrifice his life so the people of Israel could live. Life goes on, but there is an empty space. For a bereaved family, every day is Yom HaZikaron – on Yom HaZikaron we all stand together.
Rabbi Shaw continued, reminding the students of the summer of 2014, when three boys were kidnapped and murdered. The film had a song written to commemorate the boys, this again shows how Am Yisrael comes together both in times of tragedy and of joy.
Tonight we will move from the sadness of Yom HaZikaron to the joys of Yom HaAtzmaut: we thank Hashem who has brought us back from the four corners of the earth to our homeland.