This evening is the start of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) in Israel, a day that unites its citizens in mourning for their fallen who sacrificed their lives for the existence of this country.
Memorial Day is marked every year according to the Hebrew calendar and is commemorated on Iyar 4, always one day before Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). The placing of these days next to one another is intentional in order to symbolize and emphasize the connection between the lives sacrificed and the establishment of the State of Israel.
Israel’s loss has not been small. As of today, the number stands at 23,646 fallen soldiers since the founding of the State of Israel. Many wars have taken place on this soil in just 70 years that produced suffering and painful losses but also the right to exist.
Like everything else, mourning and loss touch Messianic believers in the Land as well. We also remember today our sons, daughters, husbands, wives and friends.
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Uri Goldberg writes about his friend, Barak Roman
It is difficult for me to write much about Barak on this day. It weighs on me. He was my best friend. The only thing I can talk about with full confidence is the last time I saw him. I was taken to the hospital and, when I arrived, they asked his family to enter to say their goodbyes. Rachel insisted that I was also family and that I come in.
He’s lying on his back in a cold room in the morgue. How the crown of our heads has fallen, our eyes have gone dark. “We will renew our days as of old.” Who will understand my sorrow? I lift my eyes from the trench. My creator returns my joy.
As I was standing there with the family it seemed as if it was just yesterday I saw him. I could see Barak sitting crowned in glory on the throne with his happy smile and his eyes which I knew so well as if he was saying to me with a laugh, “I passed you this time. I have arrived.”
Thank you to our Creator who has not withheld our Messiah and has given us eternal life and hope for life.
Shahar Harel writes about her brother, Zohar Halmish
Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba
[May His great name be exalted and sanctified.]
The Mourner’s Kaddish.
…beʻalma di vra khir’uteh, veyamlikh malkhuteh
[…in the world which He created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom.]
I already know all of this, in Aramaic, by heart. Twice a year, sometimes more we are there in the cemetery reading the Kaddish since I was 9 years old.
When I was 9, my older brother was killed in an operation in southern Lebanon. It is difficult to explain the feeling of what it is like to live without. Sometimes you feel nauseated. Sometimes it’s like a pain in the chest. Sometimes it’s like trying to function without a hand or a leg. And sometimes it’s like a blackhole that threatens to swallow all of the light and the life into it. Other times it’s merely apathy and lack of feelings. And then sometimes it is okay and life goes on as usual. And sometimes it’s possible to cling to the memories and the yearning and to be thankful for the time that was.
And then another Memorial Day comes and awakens the storm.
Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn.” But most of the time mourning does not feel like joy or a blessing at all. It feels like a burden or like a stumbling block, or a type of handicap. Sometimes it seems as if it would be easier to ignore him and leave him behind, to lock him inside a box where he will sit quietly and not bother us. But the mourning is like a river, it doesn’t relent until it creates a path.
And so the path that the mourning has cleared reveals a small cave in the stone. There God conceals us with his hand. Not as the storm ends, rather at its height. In the darkest part of the night he comes to us and commands us to come. And instead of saying, “Everything will be okay,” he embraces the cry that is released from within me: “It’s not supposed to be this way!” I discover in my broken heartedness the echoes of his broken heart and his promise: I have conquered death and I’m preparing us another place, a place full of light and life.
…veyatzmaḥ purqaneh viqarev meshiḥeh.
[…and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near.]
The words of the Kaddish are not words of mourning, but words of separation. They are words of praise to God who has promised redemption, salvation and life. It is praise that comes up from the depths that were created during the storm where the cracks in the broken heart have allowed light to break through deeper than it ever had before. It is a praise that comes at a high price, it is costly praise that could not come any other way. These are the depths that I have the privilege to experience again and again with concealed faith and revealed hearts. And I have the privilege to share with all who are reading that which we have been promised — he is preparing us a different place. A place of light and life.
The Mourner’s Kaddish
May His great name be exalted and sanctified.
in the world which He created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom
and may His salvation blossom and His anointed be near.
during your lifetime and during your days
and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel,
speedily and very soon. And say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed
for ever, and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted,
extolled and honored, adored and lauded
be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
above and beyond all the blessings,
hymns, praises and consolations
that are uttered in the world. And say, Amen.
Shani Ben-Arii writes to her brother, Reuven Orfani
A letter to Ruvi, my brother –
Almost 17 years have passed
how time flies…
everything around me continues toward what is hidden by the future
everyone has moved forward with life
everything teaches one thing
everything teaches that the memory will never fade.
I look backwards and do not believe
that I truly survived that period,
that God gave me mercy and strength to grow from out of the pain of losing you.
Sometimes I forget, sometimes I hope
that you will return home, that I will find you,
then I remember… “wait, what am I talking about.”
What was will not be again,
but with this, my dear brother, I will remain;
that at least I had the pleasure of being your sister.
Thank you that for a time you were my closest friend;
you were there for me time and again.
You always made me laugh, even to tears,
even if it meant to wake me from sleep just to watch “Comedy Store.”
Thank you that you cared for me and you did what was the best for your little sister.
And these moments, time will not take.
My comfort, my dear brother;
this is my dream that I see you standing with Yeshua
a moment before your first birthday after…
My comfort, my dear brother
is that you are with God, making even the angels laugh.
And a day will come, not today, but soon,
sometime in the distant future, I will see you again.
In the meantime, I will be happy with the memory.
With love, your little sister,
Dina Aweida writes about her friend Abigail Litle
On March 5, 2003 I lost my friend Abigail Litle. She was killed in a bus bombing on line 37 in Haifa. Abigail was 14 years old and I was almost 12. When I returned home from school on that Wednesday, I heard about the bus bombing and I was told Abigail may have been on that bus. Nothing was certain. They tried to get in touch with her without success. Later they located her in one of the hospitals.
I remember very clearly that evening. My mother and a neighbor sat us, the children, down on the couch and informed us that Abigail was on the bus and was killed. I remember how I burst into tears.
The next day I went to school — I had a test that week and I simply began to cry in the middle of it and the teacher took me out of the class. I’m not even sure if I ever finished that exam.
I think the main feeling that overwhelmed me was sadness. I don’t remember being filled with anger at the terrorist or at God. I don’t remember feeling the need for revenge. Just deep sadness over a friend that I had lost. But with that, thanks to my family, community and support of friends, in the shadow of mourning was also the knowledge that Abigail is in a better place. She has a place in heaven and therefore we also have a hope and even a place to be joyful.
Today, 14 years later, the feelings are different. Every year on the fifth of March at two o’clock, I’m at the cemetery. We read Kaddish. We remember the names of those who have been killed in terrorist attacks and some who are willing share a memory of Abigail. And my eyes are usually filled with tears, but not from that same sadness that I once experienced. I was young then. Many years have passed and this feeling fades with time. But to see the family that lost the thing that was most dear to them, that is what pains me. Sadness for the fact that time passes and that my memories of Abigail and the time we had together are disappearing and being forgotten. That is painful. Sometimes I stand there and cry, I don’t even understand why. The memories seem so distant and faded. Aren’t the tears supposed to finish with the years? But maybe that is exactly the reason that they do not disappear.
Abigail’s death was a harsh blow to the dear Litle family, to our congregation, to my family and to me personally. There are feelings and memories that disappear with time, but the experience and trauma are deeply etched in our memories and in our hearts. And they also shape you as your mature through the years. With all of the sorrow and grief that death brings with it, the few years that Abigail was with us here, her laughter, her beauty, her grace influenced so many people. Abigail herself and also her death touched many hearts and brought much glory and honor to God.
David writes in Psalm 27:10, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.” Our source of hope and joy is in God alone, not in men. So we thank God for his faithfulness, his comfort, his mercy through these most difficult times.
Maxim Medvedovsky writes about his close friend Shai Kushnir
I knew Shai for many years. We were part of the same congregation since we were children. We started to learn to play the guitar with the same teacher and he progressed very well and quickly. We had great communication between us, we understood each other. Unfortunately, I neglected our relationship during our high school years and army service. We barely spoke. But when we did meet, it was a precious time for both of us. We updated each other on what was going on in our lives and would encourage one another.
Shai enlisted in the armored brigade and I to the Air Force during Operation Protective Edge. Shai went into Gaza. I remember the status that he posted on Facebook. He wrote that he was doing okay. A week later they notified us that he had been killed. It was difficult to believe. I remember that I prayed for grace on Shai, on his family, on all of us. I was broken.
I remember when a group of friends went to his grave and we played worship music, God released and healed. He filled my heart with peace and hope — hope that Shai is with Yeshua.
He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4