By David Jahng
Students and members of this university’s Jewish community came together Wednesday night in somber respect to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.
Maryland Hillel hosted the ceremony to honor Israeli soldiers who have fallen as well as victims of terrorist attacks.
“I remember those people who sacrificed their lives for the Jewish state, who created a nation that’s the homeland for and defends Jewish people,” said Mikey Pollack, a sophomore philosophy major who attended the event.
Yom HaZikaron is a significant but mournful day for the Jewish people. The ceremony began with a minute of silence, as over 170 participants stood for the sounding of a siren to show respect.
Two a cappella groups performed: Mezumenet and Rak Shalom. They sang traditional and modern variations of Jewish songs that expressed hope in the face of the ongoing conflict Israel faces.
Four former members of the Israel Defense Forces shared stories of comrades who did not return home.
Uriel Peretz Liwerant, Michael Levin, Max Steinberg and Eitan Barak were all remembered for their dedication to the service.
The soldiers who lived to tell of their fallen brethren explained the void that is left in their passing.
Gil Melkin, a sophomore finance major, said he has always felt close to Israel and attended Yom HaZikaron ceremonies consistently as a member of a Jewish-Zionist community.
“Everyone who spoke tonight are all people who I know from college,” Melkin said. “To hear it from someone you know very well, to know that they personally knew someone, makes you feel even closer.”
“The Missed Chance,” a column that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv after the loss of nine soldiers in a single week on combat, outlined the lives those who died would never experience. It focused on the legacy left behind, but how in the death of soldiers, the citizens of Israel are able to enjoy safety and security.
This legacy was further defined with a poem that was read aloud, called “The Silver Platter” by Natan Alterman. It describes the soldiers of Israel who “dressed in battle gear, dirty, shoes heavy with grime” rise up to defend the nation, even when “full of endless fatigue and unrested.” Through their sacrifice, they are “the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Two prayers were said for those who gave their lives, Kel Maleh Rachamim and Kaddish. Kel Maleh Rachamim is often recited at memorial services, and a special version of it was created in remembrance of Israel Defense Force soldiers. Kaddish, while it does not explicitly mention death, is often said in memory of the dead as it gives praise and thanks to God and concludes with a prayer for peace.
In closing, the a capella group Kol Sasson led all in attendance in reciting the “Hatikvah,” a Jewish poem and national anthem of Israel. “Looking towards Zion; Our hope is not yet lost,” it states, “to be a free people in our land.”
Immediately after Yom HaZikaron ends, the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, begins.
The attendees’ mood quickly changed from mournful to festive, as many began singing, dancing and clapping to songs before coming together for prayer to celebrate Israel’s sovereignty.
Batya Teitz, a freshman who lost a family member in a terrorist attack, said she found it touching and important to recognize the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“I didn’t expect to find something like this in America, especially in a college, and I really appreciate how real it is,” said Teitz, a letters and sciences student. “People from all of the Jewish community come and commemorate together.”