Although it was the worst nightmare of my childhood, I never said a word about it. My mother and father did not know, nor did Sarah, the caregiver. I didn’t tell any of the other children in my class, and not Uzit, our teacher. I kept quiet and hid how much I hated the memorial ceremony in the cemetery for the people from the Haganah, the Palmach and the Israel Defense Forces who died. That was because after the Yizkor prayer was recited, a squad of kibbutz members would fire three volleys in honor of the dead, and I was so afraid of the shooting, so very afraid! When the shooting ended and quiet descended on the eucalyptus grove and I breathed easy. I thought that nothing would scare me now for a whole year, until next Independence Day, except for maybe the jackals howling at night, a little.
We had two upsetting events in a row as children. On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the “partisans of Ein Hahoresh” told the kibbutz children — we were in second grade! — about their struggle against the Germans in the Vilna forests. And when we were around 10, we were already crowded into the cemetery for the memorials to the soldiers who died in Israel’s War of Independence. I thought of this last week, and it came to me that the adults were wrong to etch into us, their children, the fears of the Holocaust and of war at such a young age: long before “our” war, which no one knew if or when it would come. Years before my friends Eitan and Dan and Gadi and Rafi and Mula where killed in the Six-Day War and in the Yom Kippur War, and long before my friends’ children were killed in Lebanon.
And while I was still enumerating the people I loved who are no more, two entirely disingenuous news items gave me food for thought on Independence Day 2015: “3 asylum seekers who left Israel executed by ISIS” (Ilan Lior, Haaretz, April 21); and “At the request of his family, the National Insurance Institute removed the name of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat, who was murdered by Jews, from the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Mount Herzl”(Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, April 22).
And so, on the morning of Memorial Day I return to memory, because my childhood was immersed in fears, because they rose up against us to kill us and we feared for our lives. Today, in contrast, we prefer to turn our heads so as not to see what we are doing to others and, no less so, the evil we do to ourselves.
There was anger as well: Who is so stupid as to think that a joint list of Jewish and Arab names on the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Mount Herzl “buys” Israeli sovereignty over united Jerusalem? Is Jerusalem now united, and the only thing left to do is exalt its unification in the cemetery on Mount Herzl, in a joint occasion for Arab and Jewish families, who will tear each other’s ears off? And who is the fool who thinks that the blood of infiltrator-refugees (who crossed into Israel illegally and left “voluntarily”) can be spilled? Did our own parents not flee for their lives?
For several long minutes I stared at the image of the Eritrean refugee who sneaked into Israel and left voluntarily, his neck bent for slaughter, and the slaughterer standing above him to kill him. And kill him he did.
I loved with all my heart the party on the kibbutz on Independence Day eve and the fire ceremony at 7:30 P.M. The shooting was done and everlasting joy crowned the heads of our parents — the people who had built themselves and us a home in the homeland and who sang “Ein Hahoresh, you are our homeland” (Abba Kovner and Moshe Wilensky).
On the eve of Independence Day 2015, I had a sign that this homeland is in need of a repair. Nothing dramatic. A modest repair: removing ourselves from the occupation and withdrawing into two states with normal borders. And above and before all else, what we need are the people to do this. Because it is already another country, and the ground is burning.