Today, May 1, marks Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli memorial day to fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks.
Every person that has been in Israel on Yom Hazikaron can tell this day doesn’t feel like any other day. There are a lot of ways to describe it or try to explain this day, but for me, I think it’s simply a sad day.
It’s not just the ceremonies or the sad quiet songs playing all day at the radio station, but on this day, you can feel that even the sky is sad, and it doesn’t matter which color it’s wearing. On Yom Hazikaron you walk down the street with a heavy heart, you’re missing people that maybe you didn’t even know.
Memorial day in Israel in not a vacation day or a day we can have fun day with our families. In Israel Yom Hazikaron is way too personal for that. In Israel if you don’t know anyone who died in a war, then your father does, or your brother does. Or your friend from school. Or maybe you know someone that was just there on that black day. He was serving at the same unit, went in at the same operation, but was lucky enough to come back home to his loved ones. Evyatar Banai, an Israeli singer, says in one of his songs “pain is an opportunity to connect”. On this day, we are all connected, holding each other like one big family.
David Grossman, an Israeli author, who lost his son in the second Lebanon war of 2006 wrote in his eulogy: “We cover ourselves in our pain, surrounded by our good friends, wrapped in great love that we feel today from so many people, most of them I don’t even know, and I am thankful for them. For their support which has no limit. I wish for us that we will know how to give this love and solidarity in other times as well. It may be our most unique national resource. This is our greatest human treasure.”
I want to dedicate this evening to Lieutenant Erez Shtark. Erez was born in 1975 near Haifa. Like many of our teens here, growing up he liked to do sport and even got to play for Israel’s national volleyball team and represent Israel in tournaments abroad. Erez joined the army in 1994 and after a year in the army was selected to become an officer. As a young officer Erez insisted on taking challenging jobs and was placed in the Bofor base in Lebanon. Erez was known as a good soldier and a great officer who always wanted the best for his soldiers and peers. In February 2nd 1997 when he was 21, he died on the way to an operation in Lebanon when two helicopters crashed above his unit location. On this terrible day known in Israel as the Helicopter Disaster 73 soldiers lost their lives. In the last page of his book, which was found after his death, he wrote this poem:
“Nothing will hurt me, Nothing. Not a woman, not bullets, not terrorists.
That’s what I promised to my brother, to my sister, to my parents.
And I cried at night, and was worried in the days, Because I was afraid something would harm my parents. And my dad’s voice rings in my head for years: 'If something happens to you, I have no reason for my life, no reason for tomorrow.' If you’re standing here above me, I guess I didn’t keep my promise. I’m sorry, I swear, on my life. “
This song was chosen to be part of the Project עוד מעט נהפוך לשיר /Soon We Will Become a Song, which takes place every year at the IDF radio station and has become part of the Israeli memorial traditions.
Every year the project chooses a number of poems written by fallen soldiers and the victims of the terror acts. These words are then put to music and performed by a variety of well-known Israeli singers.
The songs give us an opportunity to connect with our fallen. Although the soldiers and victims of terror attacks are no longer with us, through these songs, some of their feelings, thoughts, their spirit, stays with us.
I want to invite you to connect to the memory in a personal way through the soldiers’ stories and songs. Click here to view chosen songs from Soon We Will Become a Song, including personal stories and pictures. Or click here to visit the project's website.