|The siren summons all to silence|
|Friday, 27 May 2011 00:00|
| Honoring Israel’s fallen heroes |
Another Yom Ha-Zikkaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, has come and gone. It is the day that Israelis honor and mourn all the soldiers who have fallen while protecting our freedom, and all who were victims of terror. Many people spent the day visiting the graves or memorials for the fallen. Others attended special ceremonies and lectures. They attended these events whether or not they personally lost a loved one.
There are two moments on this day of remembrance when everyone in the country mourns as one, at the same time and in the same way. Once in the evening, and then again the following morning, a siren sounds throughout the entire country. During the 60 seconds that the siren sounds, everyone in the country stops whatever they are doing and observes a moment of silence.
This was my fourth Yom Ha-Zikkaron in Israel since making aliyah. During that time I’ve been in many different places during the wailing of the siren – from cemeteries and memorial ceremonies to my office and the comfort of my apartment. This year, however, I observed the sanctity of the siren from a place I never have before – standing in the middle of the street.
It shouldn’t be hard to find a YouTube video of life in Israel during the siren’s sounding. Some of the more awe-inspiring videos show the traffic on a busy highway in Israel coming to a complete stop, as drivers and passengers exit their cars so that they can properly observe the moment of silence while the siren is sounding. Can you imagine this happening on I-95 in downtown Providence during the height of rush hour? Pedestrians stop in the middle of busy crosswalks, and remain there undisturbed until long after they’ve lost their right of way.
As I walked the streets of Jerusalem this year, I knew the siren was about to start and kept wondering where I’d find myself at the moment it went off. I didn’t know if I’d be in the middle of the street, on the sidewalk or at my destination before it began. There is a split second when the siren first begins, when you can hear the sound rising in the distance, and then you become certain the time has come.
With my head slightly bowed, I noticed the drivers and passengers of the cars around me get out. Each of them folded their hands and also bowed their heads. It seemed so well-coordinated, as if long before the siren had gone off, they had planned to be standing on those exact spots in the middle of the street, in a straight line, with each person a few feet behind the other.
Other than the clear sound of the siren itself, the moment of silence truly was a moment of silence. There I was, standing in the middle of busy Jerusalem, and I did not only see, but also heard, the city come to a complete stop. One moment the sound of horns honking and people talking permeated the streets of the bustling city, and in an instant there was nothing but the siren. Had I been able to hear beyond the siren and a pin had dropped anywhere in the city, I probably would have been able to hear that, too.
I feel fortunate that I never personally knew anyone who fell in battle or was a victim of terror. However, as I watched these strangers standing by their cars in the middle of the street, each of them taking the moment of silence as seriously as the next, I wondered if any of them had lost a parent, sibling, cousin, friend or other loved one.
I don’t know where I’ll be standing when the siren sounds again next year, but I know I will still take that moment to honor those who fell defending my freedom, and anyone else whose life was cut too short.