Photo Credit:
The graves of the Lamed-Hey fighters from Gush Etzion at Har Herzl in Jerusalem.

I have been living in Israel for 34 years and have always taken Yom Ha’Zikaron very seriously. Unlike the fun, shopping, vacation and BBQ day in America called “Memorial Day”, Yom Ha’Zikaron is a very meaningful, somber and emotional day. This year, however, there really is no more Yom Ha’Zikaron (Remembrance Day)… because it has been replaced with Sh’nat Ha’Zikaron (Remembrance Year).

The commemorations are not one day a year any more… they are every day, in every city across Israel. For 33 years I went to a Yom Ha’Zikaron ceremony and heard stories of heroism, bravery, courage and tragedy but today I hear these stories daily – in the supermarket or waiting at the doctor’s office. Think I’m exaggerating?

  • My daughter is a teacher, and her principal is a very special man with a beautiful family. 4 days before Pesach, the principal’s son – a religious young man with a bright future in front of him – could not deal with PTSD from the war and tragically took his life.
  • My sister had a doctor’s appointment and, as she waited, was talking to the nurse who told her about the son she lost in battle, just 4 months ago in northern Gaza.
  • While on a family hike to a natural spring in the Golan Heights on Chol Ha’Moed Pesach, we met a special woman with her daughter-in-law and 3 little kids. Where’s her son, you ask? Killed in Khan Yunis over Chanukah…
  • A good friend of mine – together with his brother – is building and settling a new area in the Jordan Valley. A few weeks ago, he called to invite me to see the area but had to cancel the visit because his brother fell while fighting Hamas in a terror-tunnel.

The list seems endless, and the heroes are everywhere… so how do we commemorate Yom Ha’Zikaron? Since it’s no longer just one day – what is there for us to do? Here are my three suggestions:

  • Make it a day that lasts a year! We are told that Shabbat infuses the week that follows with all the energy a Jew needs so take that lesson and do the same with Yom Ha’Zikaron. Take the emotions, the love and the tears and use them to power you – and your special nation – throughout the year. This day makes you feel connected and honored to be a Jew… so feel that way every day thereafter! Take the stories of courage and heroism and internalize them, making them an inseparable part of your essence. Use this day to grow in strength, conviction and dedication to Am Yisrael.
  • Accept something new upon yourself. Making the day last is a nice thought but the best way is to make it happen. Start a new custom or daily practice. Join “Misha Yomi” (just 2 Mishnayot a day – takes 5 minutes!) or start making your Brachot out loud. How about not bringing your phone into shul (even if it’s off… just leave it in the car or at home) just make sure you do these things, any of them – or something on your own – to make this day last. Think about it: In August, when someone asks you why you started learning 2 Mishnayot a day or in November, when a friend asks why you stopped bringing your phone to shul tell them it’s because of Yom Ha’Zikaron which you carry with you all year long.
  • Live the life that was worth dying for. Every one of the fallen soldiers gave their life so you could live in a strong and proud Jewish State… so help make it one! Build the land, plant hundreds of trees, expand your community and make the families of the fallen soldiers proud of their loved one’s ultimate sacrifice. They died so we could live. Let’s never forget that.

Am Yisrael Chai!

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Shmuel Sackett is the founder and director of the Am Yisrael Chai Foundation.