It Was Not Handed on a Silver Platter

While a Shabbat afternoon walk yesterday led me through neighborhoods decorated happily and proudly with streams of Israeli flags and Magen David (Jewish star) lights in advance of this Tuesday’s Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, tonight the country grows somber.

We will observe Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and slain victims of terrorist attacks.  Ha’aretz reports a total of 22,682 fallen soldiers and slain civilians.  There is practically not a single family who has not lost a member to a piguah, a terrorist attack, or who was killed in war.

At the tank museum.

Last Sunday night marked Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Rememberance Day.  While very few survivors remain, I was reminded that this country was founded partially as a result of the millions of lives lost in the Holocaust too.  It is a somber time.

Last Monday morning at 10am I was on the bus on the way to a meeting when the air raid siren went off.  The bus, as well as all the other traffic throughout the country literally pulled to a halt.  We all stood in silence for a full 3 minutes.  It was very moving.

Overriding the heaviness of all of this, it is Sefirat HaOmer, a period of sadness for the Jewish people.  The hallmark of the omer is a counting of the days from the second night of Passover to the holiday of Shavuot, the time when the Torah was given.  While it is a period of minor mourning, it too is budding with hope.  The omer, we say, is a time of removing the barriers that get in the way of our ability to see the truth and receive Gd’s gifts.

“…Lord of the Universe, you have commanded us by way of Moshe your servant to count the omer in order to cleanse us from impurity and barriers…”

After leaving the wanton culture of Egypt behind, the Israelites needed to cleanse themselves of all the impurity in order to be able to receive the Torah.  That’s one reason why it took 40 years.

What I believe all these practices have in common is the notion of teshuvah, of return.  It has never been an easy process.  From the 210 years of exile in Egypt and suffering through slavery to today’s exile which has lasted over 2,000 years, and from the 39 layers (of 40) of impurity in Egypt to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and from the gas chambers in Auschwitz to the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty, and for the tens of thousands of Jews returning to observing Torah and mitzvot and for the structured three times a day that we can ask Gd directly for teshuvah in prayer, Hashem is always providing avenues for return.

Independence Day follows immediately after Memorial Day for a reason.  At the Armored Corps Museum in Latrun, the names of all the division’s soldiers who died in battle are etched in a silver memorial in order to remember that the State of Israel “was not handed of a silver platter.”

memorial

The memorial at the Tank Museum in Latrun

My walk through the lovely neighborhood of Katamon came at a very high cost.  I do not know for what reason our generation merited to return the Land of Israel, and while this is not the complete end of the last exile, and there are some Jews who will not recognize Israel until it is so, I cannot fail to recognize the miracle and Gd’s mercy in allowing another avenue for return.

When the sirens go off again this evening at 8 p.m. and again tomorrow at 11 a.m., we will once again stand still, as one.  It’s like the blast of the Shofar on the High Holidays, which is also a calling to awaken and return.

As opposed to holidays in the United States, which are largely frivolous and commercialized — even, sadly, ones commemorating the armed forces — here they are very real.  There is grief mixed with joy, as we so often find in real life.  There is mourning, and there is sadness.  There is distance, and there is return.  And it all comes at a cost.

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1 Response to “It Was Not Handed on a Silver Platter”


  1. 1 Jack Rosenblum April 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Ilene,

    This is absolutely beautiful. Kol Hakavod!


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ilene

Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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