Black and Blue: Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut

Today is Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance for those who died fighting for Israel and who lost their lives in terror attacks. Tonight, this day of national mourning will become a day of national celebration as we begin the annual festivities for Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. That the two are connected seems weird at best – you can read more about that here.

If you don’t live in Israel – or if you’re an immigrant and not a native “Sabra” – it’s easy to feel like an imposter on these days. After all, army service is mandatory here – everyone has either served or sat at home waiting for their loved ones to call and let them know that they’re ok. It’s difficult to understand the struggle for the land when you haven’t fought it yourself, but learning to understand makes the next day’s joyous Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations even sweeter.

Below is a poem reprinted with the author’s permission. It describes the juxtaposition of the two days: how the black sorrow of our national memorialising plants the seeds for the beautiful blue and white pride as we celebrate independence.

The sun is shining brightly;
The cloudless sky is blue, and yet
The world is shrouded, deepest black.
It’s thick and slick.
It chokes me. And yet
I breathe it in.
I’m suffocating, drowning, failing, and then
I let it take me
That blackest grief – it pulls me under
It ebbs and flows and swirls and grows
Pulling me, crushing me, breaking me; and then
I break.
I’m broken, splintered, fragmented –
I am the grief.
The grief is me.
I am a swirling mass of pain, of death
I’m blood and metal, fire and dust
I am the reason she cannot smile
The reason he forgot how to laugh
The reason she sleeps alone with an old shirt she’ll never wash
The reason they have enshrined a teenager’s bedroom.

The blackness, it’s heavy.
It crushes me, unresistant, to the ground;
The ground that shrouds my loved ones
Too many to count
The ground that’s drenched in blood – our blood –
And tears.
So many tears
Soaking the ground
Watering the seeds we planted when we laid our loved ones to rest.
Our loved ones.
Our soldiers.
Our brothers and sisters and husbands and wives
And parents and children and lovers and friends –
Our loved ones.
Our lives.
They’re gone.

We buried them like so many seeds in the ground;
The ground: is its lusty thirst for blood quenched?
Their blood and our tears soak through the soil and
It’s saturated with fears and tears and
Our seeds
They’re sprouting.

We planted our hopes,
Now we’re reaping our dreams.
Our black grief and red blood has birthed
Blue and white, and
Our path has changed but
We’re living.
Life flourishes and blossoms,
The blue and white blooms.
From the tears and grief that cloaked our hearts
Life is sprouting
From our ashes and blood and the deepest wells of blackest grief
Our seeds are sprouting
They have given us life and
It hurts but
It’s beautiful.