In the aftermath, a video recorded over the weekend went viral in Israel.
It shows four small boys in southern Israel riding their bikes outside as a Red Alert siren goes off, signaling incoming rockets. Instead of running to safety, the boys put down their bikes, standing respectfully at attention while their mother frantically calls for them. The kids didn’t realize it was a warning siren. They were observing a moment of silence, doing what children are taught to do when memorial sirens sound on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. The whole incident was captured on a security camera, and the mother is playing it back, explaining what took place. With the boys now safe, she laughs, calling them tzadikim, “righteous ones,” for doing what they thought was right.
This is life in southern Israel today.
It encapsulates in some ways what it feels like in Israel around these national holidays — tears giving way to laughter. Yom HaZikaron, which is purposefully observed the day immediately before Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), is a reminder of the human toll that comes with Jewish self-determination: 23,741 soldiers and 3,150 victims of terror are remembered. In Israel, everyone knows someone who’s been killed defending the country’s right to exist.
At this year’s official torch-lighting ceremony in Israel, Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Pittsburgh Federation, was invited to represent world Jewry. With memories of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre still very fresh, he spoke about the critical importance of having the global Jewish community rise together beyond our differences to support the national Jewish homeland.
Our communal support must never waver — and the need for our collective commitment was made painfully clear this past weekend. However, as Israel moves from memorial to celebration, so must we. And on Israel’s Independence Day, we basked in the extraordinary achievements of this tiny country.
Just two recent examples that have captured international attention: Last month, Israel became only the seventh country in history to make a lunar orbit. Plans are already underway to try again for a successful moon landing. Next week, Israel will be hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, with a television audience of close to 200 million people, one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world. These two are just some of the many glittering achievements that we can take pride in.
But the biggest achievement — a miracle in our times — is the very existence of the modern State of Israel, 71 years and counting.
And we can never take this miracle for granted.