Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yom Hazikaron in Raanana

The Raanana municipality ran a beautiful ceremony for Yom Hazikaron - Remembrance Day.

The event was held (as it is every year) in front of the Yad L'Banim [1] building, whose courtyard also functions as the city square. The square was also used for Holocaust Memorial Day and is used for other events like concerts and the annual sukkot market.

There were few people there when I showed up at 7:00. By 8:00, I estimated the crowd to be over 6,000 people. It eventually swelled to around 8,000 or so. The people spilled over into and across the streets beside the square. Police kept the streets closed down for the ceremony, which included Ahuza street, Raanana's main artery.

There was complete unity of religious and secular, old and young, left and right, native and immigrant. Everyone stood for the siren at 8:00. The speeches and sad, poignant songs had biblical or ritual references. Everyone, secular or religious, stood up as the haredi chief Rabbi of Raanana walked up to the podium; he spoke about connection of between today's soldiers and the armies who fought the Pelishtim during the time of King Saul.

The ceremony included recitations of the names of all soldiers and terror victims from Raanana, from the early 1920s until just last year. Along with the names were pictures and personal details. Some of the relatives, together with young soldiers, laid wreaths. The square was draped with projections of faces and/or rolling clouds or fire at different times, and there was live music, a singer, a clarinetist, and a hazan to read El Malei Rachamim.

I felt that this, or something like it, must be happening in each town around Israel: whole populations stopped to pay tribute to their fallen soldiers, every name read out and remembered, year after year. I never went to a ceremony like this in Jerusalem (usually I went to something small in the local synagogue), but it felt right to go to this one. Maybe it's Raanana, which seems to have a kind of unity that I hadn't noticed and I haven't seen elsewhere. Or maybe it's because my own son is now in the army.

[1] Yad L'Banim is an organization dedicated to fallen Israeli soldiers.

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