Sorrow and Celebration in Israel – Yom Ha’azmaut special feature

May 10, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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This week Israel mourned her dead. Sirens blared throughout the country marking Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers. As soon as one hears those sirens they stop. Streets are silent and cars park in the middle of the street to mark those who fell for freedom and independence. In theory the sirens are meant to start and stop at the same time.

In theory.

Raffe Gold

In practice however there is generally a one to two second wait between a siren starting in one part of the country and a siren starting in another part. As you stand waiting for the siren to start you can hear one in the distance and imagine the people stopping and waiting. A wave of sound engulfing the small state as an entire nation stops to mourn those it has lost. The wars and terror attacks touch every single Israeli. Such a tiny country being forced to fight for her survival time and time again means that its youngest and brightest are often called on to make the supreme sacrifice. Throughout the country flags are raised and lowered to half-mast. On any normal day walking throughout Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa one can see an abundance of blue and white flags. A country that has come to the brink of annihilation finds it necessary to prominently display the national symbol.  In Ashdod, street barriers are painted blue and white; the colours of the State of Israel. On Yom Hazikaron, Israelis feel the pain of a people in mourning and with the lowering of a flag and the reciting of a prayer for those we have lost our minds turn from suffering to joy. We celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. We host parties throughout the country in honor of our independence. We remember soberly the creation, and continued existence, of this tiny country comes at a heavy loss. But we are happy. We are happy because we have managed to survive yet another year in one of the world’s toughest neighborhoods. We have managed to survive the terrorists’ onslaught of rockets. We have used our smartest computer hackers to delay Iran’s nuclear program for another precious 12 months. We have boosted our economy and the economy of our West Bank neighbors. We have invented life-saving technologies and begun rolling out an electric car grid that will change the world. We do this all while our existence is called into question and while boycotters scream and shout exaggerations or falsehoods. We have weathered Goldstone’s blood libel report and when the man himself finally apologized we told the world “do you see? We were right”. We celebrate the 178,000 new Israelis born in the last year and pray that they know not one day of violence. We watch with optimism, as the Arab world demands the democracy that they have been denied for so many years yet with a tremor of worry as we hope that that those who replace the devils we know will not be worse.

We mark all of these achievements with sorrow. Sorrow at the state of our country. At our infrastructure that must be improved, at our banking system that must be reformed, at our army who must still remain on high alert, at our schools that do not pass muster for a people so obsessed with education and at our politicians who remain indefensibly corrupt. At 63 we are one of the world’s youngest nations yet we have contributed more to the modern world than some of the oldest democracies. A democracy is always incomplete. Always striving to better herself. In Israel over the last 63 years our worldview has changed in relation to our neighbours. Our society has evolved to the acceptance of yet another Arab-Palestinian state. We have withdrawn our settlers from Gaza and remain ready to do so in the West Bank. We wait for a government strong enough to make peace and a Palestinian people ready to accept us. We wait for their curriculum to change and their TV shows to stop glorifying martyrdom. We pray for the day that the air-raid sirens are disabled and removed from across the country. We look forward to when the word Code Red becomes the rarest of phrases rather than a child’s first words. We wait for the day that we are no longer have to send our youngest to the army and when we can divert money to schools, hospitals and science laboratories. These days we look forward to with anticipation and optimism. We look back on 63 years with pride. Pride at the obstacles we have overcome and the society that has evolved. We remain a strong nation yet we strive for acceptance. Israel has been alive for 63 years and when she turns 64 we will party just as long and mourn just as hard. Our freedom and independence has been bought with the blood of more than 23,000 of our soldiers, sailors and airmen. It is a sacrifice we do not forget and burden that we will always bear.


Raffe Gold is a political science graduate. He can be contacted at



One Response to “Sorrow and Celebration in Israel – Yom Ha’azmaut special feature”
  1. Richard Joachim says:

    How lovely to hear from Raffe again. He writes so well, methinks he may have a second career there. Yes, every true Jew has pride in Israel – the State and the people, this is not to say that the State is not beyond criticism. It is a robust democracy and as Raffe so well points out, it constantly strives to better itself. That’s the mark of a true democracy. I really don’t think the world at large appreciates why Israel is so dear to the hearts of the Jewish people. It’s more then geography, it’s more than a ‘safe’ haven, it’s even more than history, it’s more than the little nation’s achievements, it’s more than the down-trodden becoming strong – yet it’s all these things as well.

    Israel is in the Jewish soul. It’s more than a political State and entity, it’s part of our very being – even for those ‘ultra-religious sects’ who deny the validity of of there being a Jewish State of Israel because, as they see it, the “Expected One” didn’t specifically ‘create’ it..

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