Nahum Barnea
Nahum Barnea
IDF troops at the Memorial Day service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

One day a year, give us peace and let us mourn

Opinion: The humbling days between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day for the fallen remind us of our shared fate together as a nation, but one person is using these past traumas for political gain

Nahum Barnea |
Published: 04.27.20, 23:37
Memorial Day and the immediately following Independence Day are one inseparable unit. Both serve a festive and sacred reminder of our shared fate as Israelis, for better and for worse. Not only in grief and not only in happiness: solidarity.
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  • There will come a day when both Israel's Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox will also feel a part of this bond. Whether they like it or not, Israel is part of them.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    טקס יום הזיכרון הממלכתי לחללי מערכות ישראל ברחבת הכותל בירושלים
    טקס יום הזיכרון הממלכתי לחללי מערכות ישראל ברחבת הכותל בירושלים
    IDF troops at the Memorial Day service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    When the sirens blare to mark the start of Memorial Day, each one of us stands in silence and pictures the faces of their fallen loved ones – family, friends, classmates, brothers in arms. Remembering the fallen is a highly intimate experience.
    Every year, the sirens wail atop Mount Herzl in Jerusalem as one of the local scout groups holds an annual memorial at one of the cemetery's monuments. The same ceremony every year, the same torches and wreaths of pine branches, the same secular feeling of sanctity, and only the faces of the students change.
    This year, the ceremony was held in a different format, but our values of solidarity and commitment will be ever-present - and coronavirus has only strengthened them.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    פרח דם המכבים
    פרח דם המכבים
    Red Everlasting flower, also known as Blood of the Maccabees - one of the main symbols of Memorial Day
    (Photo: Israel Nature and Parks Authority)
    Everything is so right and wholesome on this day. That's why I struggle to understand why some insist on ruining it.
    Someone turned my attention to a tweet published by poet Tsur Ehrlich.
    He wrote about Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was so struck by it that he decided to share it with his followers.
    Here is what he shared:
    "Two memorial days and between them a short wait/now let us count/how much does it cost us with a state/and how much does it cost us without"
    I read it once and then again. I didn't have much to say to the writer. It is a work of art compared to much of the nonsense we see on social media.
    However, I was wondering what was going through Netanyahu's mind. Is this what he truly thinks of the Holocaust and Israel's fallen soldiers and terror victims?
    Are they all just numbers? Six million compared to 23,8916? Good for us. We made a great deal.
    Of course, it was worth it, but not because we haven't lost that many soldiers in Israel's war, we've actually lost too many. It was worth it because our founding fathers and mothers established here a democratic, proud, enterprising and vital society; it was worth it because Israel as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts and even exceeds what our politicians currently offer us.
    Unfortunately, this is not a slip of the tongue for Netanyahu. He is addicted to the math of the Holocaust.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    יום הזיכרון חללי מערכות ישראל בית עלמין צבאי הר הרצל  צה"ל חיילים
    יום הזיכרון חללי מערכות ישראל בית עלמין צבאי הר הרצל  צה"ל חיילים
    IDF troops attend a Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AFP)
    He gave a speech at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on Holocaust Remembrance Day and said repeatedly that the Holocaust and coronavirus cannot be compared.
    And then he goes right to compare between them: "Unlike the Holocaust, this time we've detected the danger in time," Netanyahu said.
    This made me jump out of my seat and I had to rewind to see it again. Did he really just say that? Yes, he did.
    Well done to us, we struck a great deal: six million dead against 200, and we even got a fifth Netanyahu government to boot. It was definitely worth it.
    But coronavirus isn't the only Holocaust to him. The Iranians are also a Holocaust and the Palestinians and their president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose security authorities foil attacks on Israelis daily, are all a Holocaust.
    The left, the center, and everyone else who has yet to agree to serve under him. Everyone is Hitler - and I, Benjamin Netanyahu - can alone defeat him.
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    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Holocaust Remembrance Day
    (Photo: Mezmur Productions)
    The real question here is not what he says, but why he says it. Whether because he believes it or because he thinks that little of the intelligence of us, his voters. I'm not sure which answer is worse.
    In normal times, we can live with this contempt. Netanyahu is not the first politician to make this comparison, nor will he be the last.
    But on Memorial Day? The decision to prevent people from going to military cemeteries on Memorial Day was justified. It could have been worded differently, in a different tone, as a reasoned request rather than a command, but it is difficult to argue with the very decision.
    Ok, now that we've given up cemeteries, we ask for one thing in return: Mr. Netanyahu, please don't try to do deals on the graves of the fallen.
    One day a year, give us peace.
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