I was standing at our local community center Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony last night when I looked around and noticed my friend Aharon Horwitz (for more on him and his projects see here ) there as well, along with many other friends and neighbors, a true local community recognition of a national event. When I got home, and checked my email, found reflections that Aharon had already written and sent out, and far more articulate and personal than anything I would say. So Aharon is my guest blogger for the day:
On Yom Hazikaron I try to personally honor--and ask those I know to as well--two soldiers from my unit (Nachal 931, August '99 draft) who died in service: Dani Cohen and Shani Turgeman.
Standing tonight at the Baka community memorial ceremony my thoughts were already on Dani when, to my surprise, a boy from Bnei Akiva read aloud to the community about him. Dani, so it turns out, was a counselor at the neighborhood chapter. I didn't expect that, didn't even realize that I was daily walking the neighborhood bereft of Dani, the same neighborhood he'd invited me home to for Shabbat in the year 2000 (how I wish I'd taken him up on that invitation). Dani's name joined tens of others, sons and daughters of the assembled bereaved who sat among the rest of us mourners. Seeing the families and accompanying friends and community members reminded me that a soldier in Israel is never alone, accompanied as he or she is by the hopes and dreams of a country, and by the love and firm faith of a family. So much is risked on every soldier we send out. So much is lost when they fall.
I, like each of you, honor those like Dani and Shani who sacrificed for their friends, fellow soldiers, and for all of Israel, and pray this Yom Hazikaron for the day when no more soldiers will be added to the lists of fallen. The mitzva of Yom Hazikaron must be to rededicate ourselves to personally striving for that future day. As Dani wrote in a letter of premonition to his parents, "the point of life is to be the part of the puzzle you were meant to be to the best of your ability....to give rise to future generations better than yourself either by influencing your children or those around you. I, it seems, am destined to be one of those who had to make his difference by impacting those around me." To me that is the undying call to us from these who have fallen in service: one's life is to be spent--as theirs was--in pursuit of a better future for those who come after. And in that sense, both Dani and Shani lived life to the fullest.
Dani died in the November 2002 battle near Ma'arat HaMachpelah in Hebron. Shani, serving in the reserves, was killed near Lebanon during the attack that lead to the kidnapping of Regev and Goldwasser. May their memories continue to inspire the living.
Thanks for remembering with me,