Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, packed the sanctuary of The Temple on Sunday night, April 30, to honor the memory of 23,534 Israeli soldiers and 3,117 terror victims killed since 1948.
Those sacrifices are “the silver plate upon which our hard-fought independence has been served,” said Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, Israel’s consul general to the Southeast. She said Yom HaZikaron, which fills the 24 hours immediately preceding Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, is the one day when “we are one.”
While the loss of Holocaust survivors is a constant concern in the Jewish community worldwide, Shorer noted the parallel loss of the Israelis who fought in the 1948 War of Independence and “our duty to bequeath to next generations the meaning of independence and security, of being free and its price,” when those who established the modern state are gone.
“We are still wielding our swords,” Shorer said, “but we have not abandoned our quest for peace and security.”
She said the independence generation is an example for Israelis and for Jews worldwide, a theme continued by Garry Sobel, the chairman of the Southeast Region of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Sobel said Atlanta’s Jewish and Israeli communities are united in deep grief and appreciation for those who died defending Israel. “We are one family. Israel is our homeland, and we have shared the responsibility of ensuring her safety.”
Gad Levy, whose son Shilo was one of 72 soldiers killed in a collision of two helicopters flying to southern Lebanon in February 1995, spoke about the loss, but he did not want to focus on the grief.
“There is no greater pain, but there is also no greater truth,” Levy said, emphasizing that his son’s death at age 21 meant he had completed his mission on Earth.
He said Shilo, the third of three yeshiva friends killed in seven months in the IDF, believed that military service in Israel was a great mitzvah, and he inspired his fellow soldiers to reconnect with their Jewishness while becoming more observant himself.
Levy said it is important to recognize the divine role in the miracle of Israel’s survival and its exceptional achievements in technology, science, the economy and the military. He noted that the rain line in the land of Israel used to be just south of Ashkelon, but as Jewish settlement pushed farther into the Negev, the rain moved south as well.
Still, for one day and one ceremony, the focus was on Israel’s sacrifices, not its successes.
“May the memory of the fallen be blessed,” Sobel said, “and may G-d bless the IDF.”
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