BROOKLINE – Political conflicts took a breather for one evening last week as more than 500 Israelis and American Jews joined together at a solemn Yom HaZikaron program commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorism at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline.
Everyone stood quietly, many with their heads bowed, as a siren rang – just as it does in Israel where residents stop and stand silently for two minutes of silence.
“This is what we do,” said Relly Banker, an Israeli and Brookline resident of 35 years. “Since we were children, we would listen to the sirens and remember the fallen. It is a very sacred day. On this day we put everything else aside to honor those who sacrificed so we can live in a democracy.”
Deputy Consul General of Israel to New England Irit Yakhnes said, “The siren is the signal to commence the day, when we must put aside our disputes, everyday problems and tear down the partitions between us.
“Our moral duty is to remember and commit to making an effort to be better; to be a society worthy of the sacrifice of the fallen. On this day we know and remember that thanks to those who have fallen, we are a free people in our country.”
The observance was organized and hosted by the consulate and featured Israeli government officials, local rabbis, and individuals who delivered moving remembrances of victims of war and acts of terrorism.
Some of those at the heavily guarded observance talked in very personal terms about the victims of terrorism and friends and relatives who perished in battle.
Barak Tsivkin of Newton, who grew up in Jerusalem and served as a paratrooper in the first Lebanon War, talked about how he lost two close comrades – one 18 and the other 19 – in battle.
“They deserved to live. On this day I put everything aside and remember the fallen,” he said.
Simon Ganeles, of Brookline, lost his brother, Elon, last year in a terrorist attack in Israel and represented bereaved families. Right after the sirens rang out, he lit the Yizkor (memorial) candle as part of the evening’s ceremony.
Deputy Consul Yakhnes led the ceremony and somberly described the scope of the sacrifices Israelis have made in defense of their country which celebrated its 75th anniversary last week and later this year will be observing the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
“24,213 soldiers and 4,255 sons and daughters (have fallen) in the defense of protecting the existence of the State of Israel, beginning in the 19th century, when the first Jews began to settle outside of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem until today,” she said.
“Our moral duty is to remember and commit to making an effort to be better,” Yakhnes said. “To be a society worthy of the sacrifice, of the fallen, and of you, the bereaved families.”
Among those who participated in the ceremony was Rabbi Shlomo Noginsky. Noginsky, who left Israel to work at Shaloh House in Brighton, was chased by an Egyptian man and stabbed multiple times two years ago in broad daylight in Brighton.
“Today, as we commemorate the memory of every single soldier and victim of terror. As we mourn and cry, we must also remember that the future is in our hands,” he said.
“We must also look forward to the future and make sure we are doing everything in our power, and beyond, to make our global community a safe place for everyone. To bring peace upon the land.” Θ