Remembering and Celebrating: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut

On Monday, May 5, Israel marked Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), a day in which life comes to a halt to commemorate Israelis – soldiers and civilians – who died in Israel’s many wars and terrorist attacks. On this somber day, Americans for Peace Now stands with our brothers and sisters in Israel in paying tribute to the fallen and in recommitting to fulfill our mission of securing peace for Israel, peace that will end the endless wars and bloodshed.

And when the sun sets, in an abrupt shift of emotion, Israelis start the festivities of Yom Ha’Atzma’ut (Independence Day), flooding the parks and the public squares to rejoice in the 66th birthday celebrations of their country.

On Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, we at APN join our friends in Israel not only in reveling at Israel and its momentous achievements but also in celebrating the vision that Israel’s founding fathers articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and re-committing to it. Re-committing to the vision of a state that is “based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel,” recommitting to “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness.”

Israel’s self-reliance and independence, and its stunning success in almost every conceivable field – from culture to agriculture, from science and high-tech to the miraculous revival of Hebrew – are cause for celebration.

But this success has also created some destructive misperceptions among the Israeli public. Such as believing that military action is the most reliable and dependable tool to address Israel’s ongoing conflict with its neighbors. Or that Israel is free to act militarily without regard to the interests and considerations of its allies or world public opinion. Or that the adversary is not a worthy partner for negotiations. Or that the status-quo is sustainable and without cost. Or that it’s ethically acceptable to rule over another people in perpetuity.

Recent disappointments notwithstanding, we all know, as do most Israelis, that Israel can and should make peace with the Palestinians. It can and should strive for the creation of a Palestinian state. Not for the sake of the Palestinians, but for the sake of Israel’s future, if it is to fulfill the vision of a Jewish and democratic state. 

In a special recorded essay four years ago, APN Board member and US Jewish community icon Leonard (Leibel) Fein best captured our sentiments on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzma’ut. His words from 2010 are still valid today – if not more so.