23,928

The transition is always hard for me – the transition each year from mourning to celebration.

From commemorating fallen soldiers and civilians on Yom HaZikaron to immediately celebrating Israel Independence on Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

It's something so unique to Israel, and so poignant. Mourning the loss of so many as the price of independence and celebrating that independence and its achievements in a swift transition immediately thereafter. It would be like going from the true sense of Memorial Day to the Fourth of July in the course of 24 hours – recognizing the larger purpose these brave individuals contributed to with their lives.

More so this year, I would say, than perhaps any other year in recent memory, this week we’ll all feel that distinction too: the dichotomy of mourning and celebration, so close to each other. There’s been so much pain and suffering in our communities – here in New Jersey, around the world, and in our beloved Israel. So much loss and grief from the pandemic, along with pride and celebration for our work and mission.

So, we mourn today, and at the same time, we try to celebrate.

This time of year serves as an important reminder of our special relationship with Israel that transcends even much of what we’ve endured this past year.

A good example of this is the way that some of our most deep and meaningful relationships with our Israeli friends and partners have continued and strengthened even during this past year.

Even though we were forced to cancel missions and visits, to send home our beloved rishonim (pre-army emissaries) and some of our shlichim (post-army emissaries), and not have any face-to-face encounters, we didn’t give up on the meaning behind those relationships. Our shared work, our shared mission. We moved to virtual meetings, and virtual missions, and virtual celebrations and encounters.

Here in Greater MetroWest we like to say that not only do we love Israel, but that we live Israel.

And no time is that more clear than tonight.

As Israel mourns the 43 soldiers and civilians killed this past year, and the 23,928 fallen for its independence, I heard loud and clear the voice of President Rivlin today:

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation. I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted. This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age. Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel, is on your shoulders. Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of arms, a free people will not be established here. The Israel Defense Force and the State of Israel, we, need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price.”

And as Israel prepares to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of Independence, we stand with our families and friends and partners, in mourning and – tonight– in celebration.

With hopes for peace, and safety and health, for all its citizens.