Written by Rabbi Johnny Solomon
Coming up is Yom Hazikaron when we remember all those who have been killed in safeguarding the Modern State of Israel, and this is immediately followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut when we celebrate the establishment of the Modern State of Israel.
On Yom Hazikaron, cars stop in their tracks as a siren is sounded around Israel and people stand in silence to remember the fallen soldiers, while Yom Ha’atzmaut is a national holiday on which concerts, parties and barbeques will be held across the country.
Clearly, the contrast between these two important days is jarring and is incredibly difficult to describe in words. Still, I’d like to try by referring to one of the most moving clips I have ever seen which captures a moment that took place just a few weeks ago.
The clip, which can be watched here, shows how the Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett made a surprise visit to the home of Miriam Peretz to inform her that she is to be the recipient of the Israel Prize – the state’s highest honour – to reflect her Lifetime Achievement for Strengthening the Jewish-Israeli spirit. And the reason why this video is so powerful is because Miriam Peretz’s story is the story of the State of Israel.
In 1998, Uriel Peretz – Miriam’s & Eliezer’s 22-year-old firstborn son, was killed in action in Lebanon. Yet, despite the exemption available to her other sons, they chose to fight in the front lines. In 2005, Eliezer died from a heart attack brought on from the loss of his beloved son. And then, in 2010, their second son Eliraz was killed in action in Gaza aged 31.
Clearly Miriam has experienced incredible pain and loss. Yet she has a radiant smile and is endlessly proud of her family and her people. This is because, as she explains in this video, ‘a country capable of shifting from Holocaust to revival; a nation capable one day of existing in struggle, living under threat – and the next day, celebrating, this personifies the Jewish people. This characterizes my life.’
On Yom Hazikaron we remember the real stories of the real people who died to protect the State of Israel, and on Yom Ha’atzmaut we celebrate the real miracle that is the State of Israel.
For those who are in Israel, the spirit of both days permeate the atmosphere. However for those who are not, videos such as these, along with the information-filled and interactive games available on Jigzi, offer an opportunity to connect with the events, and the emotions, of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. And the best thing is that if you are using a mobile phone, tablet or laptop to do so, you’re probably using a processor that was developed or manufactured in Israel!
Wishing you a meaningful Yom Hazikaron, and a joyful Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration!
Rabbi Johnny Solomon is a passionate, reflective and energetic Jewish educator. He has a BSc (Hons) in Maths and Religious Studies, a teaching qualification from the University of Herfordshire and semicha from the Montefiore Kollel in London. While living in London, Johnny held numerous senior positions in Jewish education including Head of Jewish Studies at Immanuel College, Assistant Head at Naima Jewish Preparatory School, Team Leader at the Jewish Curriculum Partnership and Head of Jewish Studies at Hasmonean Girls’ School. In 2012 Johnny moved to Israel where he spends his time writing great Jewish educational content for Jewish Interactive, and teaching at post-high school seminaries.