A thousand Melbournians gathered last Tuesday, 21 April, to remember and commemorate the lives of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror. The tekes (ceremony), held at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Clayton, focused on the impact of bereavement on those left behind and on the close connections between the Melbourne Jewish community and our brothers and sisters in Israel.
Presented by the Zionist Council of Victoria in partnership with local Jewish organisations, the Yom Hazikaron tekes was attended by the Premier of Victoria, The Honourable Daniel Andrews, and Israel’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Shmuel Ben-Shmuel. After the commemoration, Mr Andrews expressed how touched he was by the program.
Mr Ben-Shmuel spoke movingly about Israel’s desire for peace and the ordinary heroes who are called on to “unselfishly protect our land”. “With all the pain, our hands will always be outstretched for peace, and we will never stop extending it”, he said. “This is our legacy and this is our hope.”
Zionist Council President, Sam Tatarka’s remarks emphasised the evening’s theme of solidarity with Israel. “Yad b’Yad, Hand in Hand, we stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel”, he said in recalling the community’s gatherings last July and August – in mourning for the deaths of the three school boys kidnapped in Israel last summer and in demonstrating for peace and an end to rocket fire during Operation Protective Edge.
Candles were lit for Avi Klinger z”l and Yehuda Pakula z”l, both of whom fell in the Yom Kippur War. When speaking of the impact of the loss of her brother Yehuda on her and her family, Shyrla Werdiger said that “these things never seem to leave one; in fact, they seem to get more powerful with time”.
Two local families lit candles for close loved ones who fell during the last year – Shon Mondshine z”l, an 18 ½ year old soldier killed during Operation Protective Edge, and Dalia Lemkus z”l, a 26 year old young woman who was killed in a terror attack in November.
Mordechai Gruber, a Holocaust survivor and former IDF soldier, together with his son and grand-daughter, lit a candle in memory of those sole members of their families to survive the Holocaust who then fell in Israel’s war for Independence. Mr Gruber reached out to the Zionist Council because he felt strongly that “with no one left to continue their family’s legacy, these brave soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice for the young Jewish state and should not be forgotten”.
One of many moving moments of the evening was when Malachi Goldman, an IDF officer who was involved in the search for the three kidnapped boys last June, spoke of his experiences. “For 18 days we searched randomly all over the West Bank, feeling surprised and frustrated that our mighty intelligence had no idea where these boys were”, he shared. He related that when the search came to an end, “it was a very sad day for us, but we also knew that we gave the families and the whole nation the ability to go on with their lives, and a grave to mourn at in days to come”.
A memorial room which highlighted the lives of those remembered in the tekes, and created by Michal Carmel, Erez Feinberg and the Tzofim (Israel Scouts), was a focal point of remembrance and contemplation before and after the ceremony. An Erev Shirei Zikaron (singing songs of remembrance) enabled people to gather, reflect and sing Israeli songs traditionally sung on Yom Hazikaron.