Once again this year, the residents of the Baka and Mekor Chaim neighborhoods gathered.
It’s an annual get-together that crosses every dividing line among Jews in Israel: immigrants and native-born, secular and religious, Ashkenazim and Mizrachim, old and young, left-wing and right-wing.
It is the eve of the Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen, Yom HaZikaron, and the crowd grows bigger from year to year.
It is a simple ceremony. It begins with the siren at 8 pm heard all over the country, and includes short speeches, a few songs, Kaddish, some dramatic readings, and at the very end, HaTikvah, our national anthem.
To be honest, I don’t very much like it. The speeches are usually repetitious from year to year. They try to hug the families of those who are no longer with us, to remind us how we need to be more unified, to create a better society. Some are heartfelt, others seem to me cliched. Nobody claps. It is a solemn occasion.
The flag is brought to half mast, a local Mizrachi and a local Ashkenazi rabbi speak, the secular left-wing HaShomer Haza’ir kids do a reading, as do the local religious Zionist youth group, Bnei Akiva. In the last few years, there is also a reading done by people with special needs.
Near the end, a list of those from the neighborhood who were killed defending Israel is read. The list is long. One is named Heinrich, probably a Jew from Germany, along with other Ashkenzi names. There are more Mizrachi names, like Rachamim and family names like Tourgeman. (After all, until a few decades ago, this was a predominantly Mizrachi neighborhood, and little English was seen or heard on Rechov Emek Refaim.) There are no calls for revenge.
It is a moment of solidarity in a fractious society. Solidarity with those who gave their lives so we could have a State. (Without them, we would not have one.)
Solidarity with their families, who suffer the loss every day of the year.
A moment of solidarity of our local community with each other, despite our differences.
That is what I love about it, and that, I believe, is why so many hundreds, perhaps a couple of thousand even, come to this simple ceremony.
Pardes 360 is a series of responses to world current events by Pardes faculty in 360 words (or sometimes a few more). The views expressed in the articles are those of the author and do not reflect and institutional stance. To read other Pardes 360 articles, click here.