Too many beautiful faces. Thoughts on Yom Hazikaron.

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Seattle native Leah Jacobson along with husband Jon and daughters Carol, Shana, Dahlia and Yonit made Aliyah in 2011. Leah was to have recorded a message to be broadcast at the Seattle Jewish community Yom Haatzmaut celebration today. But when it came time to hit the record button she couldn’t do it. Leah tells us why.

As you may know, I was supposed to appear on your screen tonight with a big smile and a Yom Haatzmaut message. I was even hoping for some broader Jacobson family involvement and sharing of stories and reflections. But as we sat watching the Yom Hazikaron tekasim happening at the Kotel, in Latrun and Tel Aviv, simultaneously with ceremonies in all of the cities across Israel, we realized that none of us felt able to speak; to verbalize our feelings at this moment.  So I sat down to write a little and describe the atmosphere here tonight. 

In the ceremony at the Kotel, dignitaries speak directly to the bereaved families- those who lost soldiers or civilians in terrorist attacks. They reassure them that even though they bear the daily burden of loss, we, all of Israel, are here for them and share their pain. And we pledge to live with purpose and hope to give meaning to their loss. 

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Memorial Ceremony at the Kotel on Yom HaZikaron.

There are concerts broadcast from Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, and Sultan’s Pool in Yerushalayim that feature famous artists singing poignant songs.  Many of them written by relatives of those who fell, many are songs that have become part of the fabric of Israeli society and express the pain and missing. The Omer period is not violated this night. The concerts are not about entertaining, they are about coping with our loss through words and melodies. There is no applause. 

Their smiles radiate from the photos and only make you love them more.  

In between songs, air stories of fallen soldiers with video footage from their youth and interviews with their family and friends that tell of their talents, of their love of life, of their tendency to give of themselves, of their charisma, their leadership abilities and their pride in their choice of defending our country and protecting their loved ones. Their smiles radiate from the photos and only make you love them more.  

The stories being shared this year are of the 72 fallen soldiers of this past summer in Tzuk Eitan. Because we were here and many of these stories are familiar, it is especially difficult to watch, but we do because we must honor their memories.  

I know that tomorrow I will see and hear more stories and I will cry with friends and strangers. And this day is for crying. It is a collective release of emotion and pain that reminds us of the high price we have paid to live here. But we love life. And we love our land. Our Holy Land.  

I know that tomorrow I will see and hear more stories and I will cry with friends and strangers.

We carry the memories with us, but we look forward with faith and hope. If you have a few minutes, search the song that was written in memory and tribute to the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered this past summer. “Ptach Lib’cha” by David D’Or brilliantly captures the feelings and is performed by artists across the spectrum of Jewish practice, with the express intention of recreating the unified phenomenon that carried us through the difficult summer.   

We look back today, but tomorrow we look forward and say we are not content just to survive. Rather we live with purpose and strive to advance in every way; to make not just Israel, but the whole world a better place. We have a mission after all, to be an Ohr Lagoyim. We are most poised to fulfill that mission when we are united. The unity that we experienced here this summer was a taste that just whet our appetites for a lasting unity that will bring Peace to the world.  

Today we also mourned the loss of a Torah giant, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, who symbolized the fusion of Torah vaAvodah. He was a pioneer in encouraging young religious Zionist men to combine Torah learning and army service in one of the first Yeshivot Hesder at Gush Etzion.  He is one of a number of great Rabbis who have passed away here in recent weeks. Our friend and Rosh Kollel remarked that as our leaders pass on, we are left with the daunting task of filling their giant shoes.  May Hashem give us the strength and guidance to do so.  

Being here is just one way we choose to be actively involved in this mission. To learn Torah and practice mitzvoth in Eretz Yisrael. To be part of the Jewish nation, returning after 2000 years. It is a privilege our ancestors only dreamed of. 

To sum up, I am humbled and inspired to be a part of the miraculous chapter of Jewish history as it unfolds. And in fewer words, this is what I am feeling right now.  

Too many beautiful faces.  

Too young. 

Music soothes but does not erase the pain. 

It is a time to cry. 

So many tears. 

Too many tears. 

To remember. 

To hope. 

To give purpose. 

עם ישראל חי 

Happy Yom Haatzmaut. Leshana Habaah B’Yerushalayim Habnuyah.

Jacobson familyLeah (Maimon) Jacobson is a born and bred Seattlelite.  Leah made Aliyah with her husband Jon and four daughters in August of 2011. The family resides in Raanana. 

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