Rabbi Shimon B. Glickman, Director of Communal Activities at the JEC – Leeds Kollel, reflects on the solemnity and euphoria of the Yoms.
What are the Yoms all about? A good Jewish answer is always a question! Which of the Yoms?
The first, is not Yom Hazikaron, but Yom Hashoah. This is the Israeli holocaust memorial day. Holocaust Memorial Day is used as a springboard for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, when we remember all those who lost their life through war, conflict and terrorism. This terminates with Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day.
I always found this a very interesting combination. In Israel, both Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron are very solemn days. I remember vividly arriving in Israel on what was Yom Hashoah, just over a decade ago. Having visited Israel previously, I knew how lively Ben Gurion airport is, and expected the usual hustle and bustle. Instead, though it was late afternoon, and quite a number of flights had arrived at the same time (I recall the long wait at passport control!), there was solemnity in the air. One could sense that the entire country felt the gravity of the day.
Though not everyone has immediate relatives who went through the Holocaust, we all know of people who went through it. We all know of people who lost their families in the Holocaust. Indeed, it is a loss that the entire Jewish people feel. This is certainly a very potent reminder of the times that we live in, and the mourning that should be felt during the days between Pesach and Shavuot.
Just one week later, another day of mourning is observed. Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron. Hearing the siren gives one the shivers. Being in a public place in Israel and seeing everything grind to a halt, as all the cars pull over and the drivers get out, is a sight not to be forgotten. It is both chilling and heart-warming. It is a time of remembering all the thousands who lost their lives fighting for Israel and for Judaism. A time to remember those who lost their lives simply because they were Jewish or Israeli. It is a time to feel for all the families of those who perished so suddenly and so sadly.
However, it is also a heart-warming time. It is a time where we show those families that they are not alone. We all stand with them. We all feel for them. We are truly united as one. It is with this in mind that we can move from solemnity, to euphoria.
Yom Ha’atzma’ut needs no introduction! It is a truly Jewish idea. By thinking of others, by feeling for our fellow Jews as family members, we can unite in joy. It is, no doubt, through thinking about others, sharing the communal burden, which enabled the Jewish people to survive through our long and bitter exile.
The Jewish people have gone through so much in nearly 2,000 years of exile. We are still suffering around the world, and especially in our homeland, Israel. Let’s hope and pray that through feeling for each other we will be able to celebrate peace and tranquillity in Israel and the diaspora.