Yesterday marked the beginning of a week of memory and commemoration in Israel. April 24 is Holocaust Memorial Day, and next week on May 1 begins Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers which would conclude with the celebrations of Independence Day on May 2.
I have often wondered why we spend so much time reliving these heartbreaking events? Surely the people who lived through these traumas do not need a day to remember, they live everyday with memories.
During memorial days my grandfather would take me to visit the graves of his friends and loved ones. He pointed out the people he knew from the town where he grew up; a man who helped build the local synagogue, the butcher who lived across from the Jewish community center. Each grave marked with a Jewish star represented a unique life, a life that had left its mark on my grandfather.
In honoring these people, my grandfather left an indelible mark on me. I was reminded that we stand here today because of the sacrifices of so many who are no longer with us.
Yesterday, Israel as a nation joined in these commemorative events across the country, in schools, at war monuments and in cemeteries. Tears were shed, prayers prayed and stones placed on graves with flags raised in honor of those were lost in wars and a holocaust over the past century. Friends and family came together to tell the stories and recall the bravery, and the pain, of loved ones we can never forget.
Soon, in just a few short years, there will not be any survivors left to tell their stories. We feel their absence, for they are no longer here to give us direction, fill leadership roles in our communities, or extend comforting hugs.
This week, as we marvel at the spring season of rebirth, it is good that we also find time to renew the memory of the untold sacrifices of those who made it possible for us to enjoy our lives. It is good that we bring our children to Memorial Day events, read the names on the plaques and think about the families that were forever changed by the lives and the losses of their loved ones, and shake the hand of a young soldier in appreciation.
They have earned our eternal gratitude.