It was Veterans’ Day yesterday in the States. Which meant absolutely nothing was different and you can go about your lives, citizens.
Which is kind of sad.
In Israel, Veterans’ Day is a national holiday. People are excused from work and many companies consider the day lost, because half of their employees need to leave early because schools and day cares end early that day.
Sad songs are played all day long on the radio; that’s 24 hours of songs about death, dying too soon or too young, and serving in the army – on every single frequency.
At approximately 11:00am a nation-wide siren sounds, calling everyone to attention for two whole minutes*, while we remember those who sacrificed themselves, and those who continue to serve, so that we can live in this weird state of semi-peace and freedom.
It’s not really Veterans’ Day; it’s also Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving too.
The Hebrew term is Yom HaZikaron – Day of Remembrance.
But on 11/11 every year, the US celebrates those who fought in the many wars that the US chose to be in by having lots of sales, and giving all residents (legal and otherwise) a day off from school and work.
Now yes, there are people who have family members who fought, and they are honored. There are neighborhoods who hold charity drives and runs to raise money for veterans. But the vast majority of Americans don’t do much beyond eating a hotdog or three.
In Israel, the only reason you don’t commemorate Yom Hazikaron is if you are so fresh off the boat nobody in your family has served in the IDF yet.
None of your coworkers had lost friends during compulsory service.
None of your neighbors were called up for reserve duty.
None of your friends went away to war.
But if you are here long enough, then you begin to understand that Veterans’ Day, and Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving, are about all of us. Not just those who served.
It’s also about the parents, and siblings, and fiances, and spouses, and children, and neighbors, and childhood friends.
A lot of my state-side friends posted wonderful tributes to the veterans in their families. But nobody paid tribute to those who were left behind. No one thanked the parents, and siblings, and fiances, and spouses, and children – who sacrificed just as much so that they could live in this weird state of semi-peace and freedom.
I am the granddaughter of a WWII Navy sailor. I am lucky that he was drafted in 1943, and therefore did not serve as long as others, which meant that his family was not without him for so long.
I am also the granddaughter of a WWII Navy Wife. Nana held down the fort while Papa was repairing ships that had seen battle in the Pacific.
I am also an IDF Wife. I am always happy and thankful that my husband came back, because there are so many who are not as lucky as me.
I also have many friends and cousins who served in various IDF units, including one cousin who was in the Navy.
I have friends who served in the US Army and in the Marines. One such friend was in Hussein’s palace when his regime toppled; I think there’s a picture of him sitting in the throne floating around the interwebs somewhere.
I am happy that they came back, because I unfortunately have friends who died while serving, both in the US army and in the IDF.
I have twice the number of Veterans’ Days to Yom HaZikaron Days, and yet the ones in Israel have greater significance. They carry more weight. Maybe because it really is a National Day of Remembrance, where everyone is affected and everyone is thankful for the sacrifices made. There’s more of a collective consciousness to it, regardless of who in your family did what to protect you.
I’ll take that over a 50% Off Sale any day.
Happy Veterans’ Day to all.
*There are some amazing videos about this experience on YouTube. Here’s one of them:
Just think if this happened in the US….