To the Israeli soldier who gave his life in the war for Israel’s Independence,
You’ve been gone 66 years but no one has forgotten what you did. How you fought for the establishment of a Jewish state. How you stood on the front line without flinching even though you had just emerged from the ashes of Europe. How you left behind your new wife and all of your hopes for beginnings. How you sacrificed everything that you had so that Jews all across the world would always have a home to return to.
There is a grave on a mountain with your name. There is a black and white photograph in a museum with your face. But there is no picture of the struggles that tore at your heart or the ideals that were embedded in your soul. Today, I remember, and I thank you.
To the Israeli soldier who gave his life in the Yom Kippur War,
You were in synagogue when the siren sounded. You were encircled by your tallit and your prayers when the urgent call wove its way through the land. And you didn’t hesitate. You didn’t think twice as you put down your machzor and the promise of tomorrow. You ran to stand beside your brothers. You left behind your own sons and daughters, and the home that you and your wife had spent years building together.
You fought valiantly even though you yourself did not know how much courage you had inside of you. You died so that we could live. There is a fading photograph of you in the living room. You are holding your children. All of them. Two on your back. One in each arm. They have missed you every day since you have left. And no one else can know the pain of those you left behind. But you have been watching them and watching us. Today, I remember, and I thank you.
To the Israeli soldier who gave his life guarding our borders,
Every Friday we wished you a ‘Shabbat Shalom’ as we passed the security checkpoint. Sometimes we brought you a drink or a falafel. You always smiled at us and waved to our children who looked up at you from the backseat. You stood there in the freezing winter rain and in the boiling hot sun. You stood there at night when the clouds hid the stars, and the darkness seemed to go on forever. You stood there in the morning while most of the country slept on. You stood there, and you protected us.
When you left this world, there was a deep gap in our nation. A gap where your smile could no longer be found and your kind words echoed only in our memories. A terrible gap in your parents’ hearts. A grieving gap as your friends dial your number by mistake and realize that you will never answer again. You stood at the gate, and you guarded your people.
Today we guard your memory. I remember, and I thank you.
And to the Israeli soldier who fought in all the other wars for our country, the wars that were named and the wars that remained nameless,
You spent sleepless nights in trenches and endless days in hot tanks. The world tried to push you down but you kept getting up anyway. You gave up the best years of your life, hiking through valleys of mud and running through minefields. You threw your body into the line of fire to save your comrades and fought with terrorists intent on killing us.
You watched your friends die beside you and still got up to train the next day. You cried with the Jews in Gaza and begged them to forgive you, though you were not to blame. You stood before the Kotel with a Tanach in your arms and a prayer in your eyes. You begged for blessings but never got to see tomorrow’s dawn. You sat in jeeps in lonely deserts and woke to horizons so far from home. You faced our enemies in a generation where many don’t even have the courage to face themselves. You left behind jobs and families and dreams. You were afraid but moved forward despite the fear. You protected our homes and guarded our children. You made it possible for all of us to return home. You lived with courage and died sanctifying His Name.
The words are inadequate, but we thank you.
You are remembered. You are missed. Today and every day.