Shalom Life | October 18, 2015

On A Silver Platter: Reflections on Yom HaZikaron and the Day that Preceded it

Looking at the transition from Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut

By: David Matlow

Published: April 22nd, 2015 in News » World

Then a nation in tears and amazement

will ask: "Who are you?"

And they will answer quietly, "We Are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”

The Silver Platter, by Natan Alterman, 1947

What a difference a day makes.

The last site visited on Monday during the Poland portion of the Adult March of the Living was Lupochowa Forest. Our buses dropped us off and we walked down a path for perhaps 300 meters. The walk was quiet, as each of us had in our minds the kinds of one way walks we Jews have taken in the forests of Poland before. At the end of the path there are three fenced-in areas, each perhaps ten meter square, and upon the fences are affixed Israeli flags and notes in various languages.

It was on this very spot, on August 25 and 26, 1941, where all 2,000 Jewish residents of Tykocin were murdered. All that remains today of that Jewish community is the synagogue which was built in 1642. Picture Anatevka - the fictional shtetl immortalized in Fiddler on the Roof - after Tevye and the other Jews left.

For our group, at that moment, the desire to get to Israel was palpable. If flights from Warsaw to Tel-Aviv were like Rapidair flights to Montreal, we would have each gladly taken the 5.30 rather than wait the extra hours until 11.30. But wait we did. On arrival at the airport after dinner, we enjoyed the fact that the departure board showed that there were four flights in a row from Warsaw to Tel Aviv between 11 pm and midnight. How lucky we were to be able to leave and go to Israel, knowing how history would have been so different if that option was available 75 years ago. Standing in security, we were being protected by Polish soldiers with machine guns. This brought home to us how things have changed, and how they have not changed. Yes the Polish are now protecting us, but the truth is there remain those who wish to hurt us, making this protection an unfortunate necessity.

A three-hour flight brought us to Israel. Within fifteen minutes of landing in Tel Aviv the hundreds of March of the Living teen participants were already in their shorts and sandals. They were literally ready to go from the darkness to the light. We adults at least waited until we reached our hotel in Jerusalem. Within a few hours, many of us were eating breakfast outside in the sun. The tension and sadness of the first part of our trip had broken, but only for a few short hours.

Last Thursday we observed Yom Hashoah at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and at sundown on Tuesday began Yom Hazikaron-Remembrance Day. In the early days of the State, it was decided that there be a seven day period between these two days, literally a shiva period (we will get up from this shiva to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut tomorrow night).

Yom Hazikaron begins with a siren at 8 pm which blasts across the country. At that time we were at a memorial service at Latrun, an artillery base that is half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Joining us at this commemoration were more than 5,000 young people who are on trips and experiences under the Masa umbrella, an organization that oversees educational experiences in Israel of four months duration or longer.

The focus of the commemoration were the stories of six out of the 23,320 soldiers who fell for the creation of Israel and who continue to fall for the protection of the state. As we left the ceremony to head to the bus we passed by a giant Israeli tank. One of our group members knocked on the tank with his fist and said: “This is the response to what we saw in the forest yesterday”.

Yes, we can now defend ourselves, and no longer will Jews be forced to march into a forest and be helplessly shot into a pit. However, that defence comes at a huge cost. That cost is the young men and women who have given their lives for Israel, and in so doing, have performed the ultimate sacrifice for us. One type of sadness has been replaced by a different form of sadness. Tuesday night at sundown the sadness will transition to joy as Yom Haatzmaut begins. The cost has been great but the result has been the Jewish state- the fulfillment of our longing, the source of our great pride, the guarantee of our safety, and the miracle that is our responsibility to sustain.

In 1947, the Israeli poet Natan Alterman said that the young soldiers, men and women alike, were the silver platter on which the Jewish State was given. They remain the silver platter on which the Jewish State survives. Seeing what we saw in Poland last week, and in Israel tonight, we can’t help but ask ourselves: what can each of us serve up on a silver platter to help in that effort?

David Matlow is a participant on the Adult March of the Living. David co-chaired the 2015 UJA Campaign with Andrea Cohen, working with Alison Himel as Chair of Women’s Philanthropy. Each of David, Andrea and Alison are on the 2015 Adult March of the Living which, in Toronto, is supported by UJA’s Annual Campaign.



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