Yom Ha'Zicaron (Remembrance Day)There is a difference in Israel's Yom Ha'Zicaron (Remembrance Day) from Memorial Day in the United States or ANZAC Day in Australia.
The wars of Israel were not just wars to hold onto our land or our sovereignty in the land. That is was the first Gulf War - Iraq invaded Kuwait for it's oil. That was WWII - Hitler invaded Poland for the land. The Japanese took the Philippines so they could be a colonial power. The Japanese did not invade the Philippines in order to kill every Philippinenian. The Allied forces did not land at Normandy with the aim of killing Germans, they landed there for a political goal. The fact that German soldiers would die was true, but it was not the reason they attacked.
Here in the holy land, the wars declared against the state and the people of Israel had the stated purpose of driving us into the sea. It was not a case of resources that Egypt wanted or oil reserves that Syria felt it had a God-given right to. It was not that Jordan really wanted political control of the area. No, the wars were declared with the stated purpose of getting rid of every Jew in the land. Get them all out, dead or alive.
As such our memorial day looks a little different that those of other countries. No parades, no furniture sales. We have a national day of mourning for our dear brothers and sisters who died saving us from death. What was on the line was not "Who would be in power?" but "Who would live?"
People who told me about their feelings leading up to '67 and '73 remembered thinking that the Egyptians would be at their doors in two days and would kill them all. If it sounds harsh to judge our enemies like this, please remember that these were the stated goals of the wars - "To remove the state of Israel from the map and to kill all the Jews in it."
The soldiers who died in these wars were not fighting on a foreign battlefield for the social rights and freedoms of some other country. They were not ridding themselves of an unjust political oppressor. Those are both noble causes who's warriors deserve every word of praise heaped upon them. But the dead of Israel are different. They fought to keep themselves and their countrymen alive.
The other difference that shapes this day is how personal it all is. The Torah tells us that in Egypt there was no house with out a dead son. In Israel today, everyone knows someone who was killed or someone who's family member was killed. When I am sitting in morning over my dead son I can't appreciate a parade celebrating the liberty and justice he fought for. At best I can reflect on my life that he fought for and saved.