Monday, April 19, 2010

Another thought or two on Yom HaZikaron

Yom sheni, 5 Iyar 5770.

I remember arriving at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for a business seminar, after I had lived for several years on the East Coast.  A large number of US soldiers were returning from Afghanistan; and as they stepped into the terminal from their plane, the crowd spontaneously began to applaud.  As random passersby became aware of what the commotion was all about, they added their applause.  I started to cry, overcome by the communal patriotism I remembered from my small-town youth, forgotten in the sea of big-city sophistication.

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At 10:51, the bus lingered at a bus stop to give a woman with a cane time to find her seat.  When it seemed that she was not able to sit without assistance, a young woman rose and came to her aid.  A short discussion ensued.  Apparently, the woman could not sit, or felt she would not be able to get up again when she wanted to.  In any case, people in the rear of the bus who could not see what was going on began "encouraging" the bus driver, loudly, to move on.  Unruffled, the driver continued to wait, while passengers in the middle of the bus (also loudly) suggested patience to the people in the back.  Shortly, the situation was resolved.  The young woman stood with her hand on the older woman's back, to steady her.  A few minutes later, it became clear that their was reasoning behind the handicapped woman's actions.

At a few seconds before 11:00, the bus driver turned up the radio, and came to a full stop when the siren sounded, along with almost every other vehicle on the city street.

Everyone stood who was able.  A young woman in a colorful mitpachat swayed as she recited Tehillim.  More than one mother wept; more than one older man gazed stoically into the middle distance.  There was silence on the radio for a tiny eternity, as nearly everything froze in place.

I looked out the windows, and felt the familiar lump in my throat as I looked at all of those people, also frozen in place.  I felt sorry for the few who did not stop.  Either they were oblivious, or they had what they felt were strong reasons not to honor Israel's dead.  Even in America -- not my country, except by Esav's sufferance -- I was permitted and permitted myself to have some American pride.  Hey!  If I was going to accept her largesse, I thought I should support her in return...

A former soldier, I thought, "These people, standing here in prayer or simple silence -- these are my people.  These are people to fight for.  These are people I could defend."  I thought of Soldier Boy, who fought his war, who now tenderly fathers his nearly one-year-old daughter.  I remember when he sang to her, "Ani mavtiach lach, yalda sheli k'tana, sheh'zot tihiyeh hamilchama ha'achrona..."  I promise you, my little girl, that this will be the last war...

I thought of Stunt Man, who will enter the army in two weeks.  Hashem, please protect all of our holy soldiers.  Let the day come when my son can keep his promise.

This is a very sad song about war, and about the hope for war one day to finally end...

Glossary:
Yom HaZikaron: Israel's national memorial day to fallen soldiers, and in recent years also to victims of terror
Mitpachat: head scarf
Tehillim: Psalms
Esav: Esau, here referring to the non-Jewish and non-Muslim western nations

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