Last Monday, Israel and the Jewish world observed Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s national Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, and ceremonies nationwide honored the 22,867 servicemen and victims of terror who had fallen since 1860.
The past year has seen 183 Israelis killed in the line of duty or in terror attacks. Five of them belonged to the Fogel family. The massacre of the Fogels took place on Friday night, March 11. Two teenage terrorists climbed over the fence surrounding the Samarian Jewish village Itamar and entered the Fogel family’s home. They stabbed to death Rabbi Ehud (Udi) Fogel, his wife Ruth, 11 year old Yoav, four year old Elad and three month old Hadas.
Not only did the terrorists express no regret for the brutal stabbings, but they also said they would have killed two other children if they had known they were sleeping in another room. The sixth child, Tamar, was out of the house at the time of the murders and discovered the shocking scene when she returned home.
In 1903, Hayim Nahman Bialik, Israel’s national poet, was sent by the Jewish Historical Commission in Odessa to interview survivors of the Kishinev pogroms. In response to his findings, Bialik wrote his epic poem “In the City of Slaughter,” which includes the line, “A proper revenge for the blood of a little child Satan has not yet devised.”
Twelve year old Tamar promised her relatives: “I will be strong and succeed in overcoming this. I understand the task that stands before me, and I will be a mother to my siblings.” Tamar had other plans for her future. She hoped to grow up as a normal teenager, worrying about what to wear, with whom to hang out, and what to write on her Facebook wall. Instead, her Facebook page includes messages from people she never met, such as the following:
We have never met, nor are we likely to. I am not a Jew nor an Israeli. I’m writing, first because I’m a writer and that’s how I express my feelings best. But also because I want to convey just how many people’s thoughts are with you. You have your grandparents and aunts or uncles, and after that you have your small and concerned community of I’timar, but beyond that you have a world of people, Jews and non-Jews, who stand with you in your grief. By living, you make clear to everyone that the People of Israel live, that their light will not be snuffed out, and that when your enemies have gone to dust and seen a darkness beyond measure engulf them, the light of the Jews will illuminate the nations. Grow and be happy and tell us what you see on your journey.
Tamar Fogel is now a symbol, a hero. Every year has its new heroes, new faces we all wish to embrace and comfort. Last year it was Miriam, mother of Eliraz Peretz, who was killed twelve years after his brother Uriel was killed during military service. This year it’s Tamar and her two younger brothers. Unfortunately we have new heroes all the time, but our strength is our ability to hug and care for them as a nation.
To me, Yom Hazikaron captures the essence of being Israeli. Year after year, I visit a bereaved family who I really don’t know, and over the years I’ve become acquainted with all the others who pay their respects to this family. This knowing and not knowing creates such a powerful feeling of unity, of being part of the whole. This unity is best portrayed on memorial walls, where the names of native-born Israelis, new immigrants, Jews, Bedouins, Druze, secular, Orthodox and non-Israeli soldiers, are all on the same wall, with no separation by religion, nationality, or belief, united as part of the IDF and their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the Jewish State.
Moti Hamer, an Israeli poet says it better in his poem ONE HUMAN TISSUE:
When I shall die,
something of mine, something of mine
will die in you, will die in you.
When you’ll die,
something of yours, something of yours in me
will die with you, will die with you.
Because all of us, yes all of us
Are all one living human tissue
and if one of us
goes from us
something dies in us -
and something, stays with him
If we’ll know, how to comfort, how to comfort
the hostility, if only we’d know.
If we’ll know, how to quiet our rage
(if we’d know how to quiet)
upon the fury of our humiliation, to say sorry.
If we’d know how to start from the beginning
In the most unreasonable yet powerful transition, Israel changed the mood and shed her grief to put on the joy of Yom Ha’atzmaut on Monday night. I want to end this message with some optimistic data: On Israel’s 63rd anniversary, its population stands at 7,746,000 people, a 2% increase (150,000 residents) compared with 2010. Since last year’s Independence Day, exactly 178,000 babies have been born in Israel. Approximately 24, 500 immigrants arrived in the country. Over 70% of the Jewish population is native-born Israelis, and more than half of them are at least second-generation Israelis.
Shalom Al Israel, Peace upon Israel
JCC Association Israel office director