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Update – 24 April 2012

Posted by Emily Gian on 24 April 2012 at 2:37pm:

This evening marks the beginning of two of the most important days in the Zionist calendar. In Israel, at 8:00pm, a siren will bring in one-minute of silence as Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, begins. The national day of mourning continues tomorrow, with a two-minute siren at 11:00am across the country. It is on this day that Israelis, and indeed Jews around the world, remember the brave men and women who gave their lives fighting for Israel’s Independence and her continued existence. They also commemorate civilians murdered by acts of terrorism. As of last year, over 22,900 fallen soldiers were commemorated, and over 2,400 victims of terror. Sadly, this number grows every year.

As a Jew living in Australia, I never really understood the powerful meaning of Yom Hazikaron until I spent some time in Israel and understood that nearly every Israeli has their own story of loss – a brother, a daughter, a friend, a loved one. Wives without husbands, children who never got the chance to meet their fathers. I realised that their sorrow is not restricted to just one day a year of collective memorial; every day for them is Yom Hazikaron.

On this day, I am constantly reminded of something my Israeli mother-in-law once told me. She said that when she became a mother, her one hope was that peace would come to the region, and there would be no need for her boys to serve in the army. It breaks my heart every time I think about her sitting nervously at home in the early 2000s, when two of her boys were serving in combat units in Gaza and on Israel’s border with Lebanon. And they were the lucky ones – they came home.

For those that wish to join the Melbourne Zionist Community in commemorating Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror please join us tonight, Tuesday 24 April at 7:45pm at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Clayton Campus. Each year, this is a very moving ceremony which connects our community here in Australia with Israel. There is no cost attached to this event.

Just before sunset tomorrow evening in Israel, the transition is made between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The following day, barbecues across the country are lit up as Israelis celebrate independence – this year it is 64 years. It is on this day that we can reflect on just how far this small country has come.

Yes, there are certain policies or actions in Israel that some may not agree with. Yes, Israel, like most countries, still has issues of poverty and of inequality. No democracy is perfect, and this is true of Israel as well. But there is so much that Israel has achieved over the past 64 years to be proud of, and it goes well beyond the usual clichés about how Israel’s pioneers made the desert bloom (which in itself is still truly remarkable)! Israelis are working daily to make the world a better place, be it in the area of medicine, science or technology. And let us not forget how Israeli teams are always among the first to dispatch help when disaster occurs in countries near and far, be it a friend or a foe.

Each year on Yom Ha’atzmaut I am reminded of the piece by Gil Troy, penned on Israel’s 53rd Independence Day entitled “Why I am a Zionist”. It is a favourite around the ZCV office. The whole piece is worth reading but I will end with the part that resonates with me year after year:

“I am a Zionist because I am a romantic, and the vision of the Jews rebuilding their homeland, reclaiming the desert, renewing themselves, was one of the greatest stories of the twentieth century, just as the vision of the Jews maintaining their homeland, reconciling with the Arab world, renewing themselves, and serving as a light to others, a model nation station, could be one of the greatest stories of the twenty-first century. Yes, it sounds far-fetched today. But, as Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionist said in an idle boast that has become a cliché: “If you will it, it is no dream”.

Come and share the dream with the Zionist Council of Victoria with two great events:

The Community Concert – Wednesday 25 April at 8:00pm at the National Theatre in St Kilda. Book online here or phone 9525 4611. So join us in a fantastic showcase of our community’s most talented musicians, vocalists and dancers.

Then, for those that have young ones or are themselves young at heart, join us at Luna Park on Thursday 26 April from 4:00pm-7:00pm for unlimited rides, stalls, activities, Israeli music, delicious Israeli food and a “Buy Israeli” market. Book online here.

Best wishes,

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