Every year, a few weeks nestled somewhere between April and May are filled to the brim with conflicting emotions for Jews all over the world.
This period starts with Passover where we remember and celebrate our ancestors’ freedom from Egyptian slavery. They labored tirelessly in the hot, Egyptian sun only to find themselves basking in the rays of their historic homeland, 40 years later.
But it is a long journey from Passover to Israel Independence Day.
In between these holidays are Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. In order to celebrate where we are now, we must also remember where we’ve come from and those who have brought us here.
A lifetime of mourning cannot be condensed into two days, but this is what we must do in order to consciously and purposefully remember the generations of lives lost in the Holocaust and the soldiers fallen in Israel’s wars.
On both days, the entire country of Israel stops completely. We bow our heads and close our eyes. We listen to the sirens and the murmuring of names. We remember.
We remember stories passed down from our mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents. We remember the last moments of relatives on their knees whispering “Shema” before a volley of gunfire. We remember soldiers in war sprinting toward death not knowing, but praying, that future generations would have a place to call home.
These are the days when we remember and repeat the names, as torturous as it might be: names of those who perished; names of death camps; names of those who mastered hate; those who never knew love; names of the executed yeshiva youth; names of the cultural and religious institutions destroyed; names of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, children.
Although painful to do so, we repeat to remember, to remind and to never forget.
As we witness the global rise of anti-Semitism, a mere 74 years after the end of the Holocaust, we must remember the long road we have traveled. For those who survived, there was no other option and no safer place to be than Israel. It was not established in order to avenge the monstrosities that had occurred. The State of Israel was established in order to provide a home, a permanent and everlasting safe haven for the Jewish people.
We once returned to the land of Israel from years of exile in Egypt. And 2,000 years later we returned to the land of Israel to rebuild a vibrant, dynamic Jewish state that celebrates freedom, democracy and creativity.
From Passover to Independence Day, and all our moments of memorial in between, the Jewish people and the Israelis know only perseverance, patience and hope. Each holiday symbolizes an adversity overcome, but each still ends in a smile and celebration because we did just that: overcome adversity.