Yom HaZikaron 2024

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Photo of Nir Maman

I live in Canada, many miles away from Israel and Gaza. I am a committed Jew however, ensconced in thought everyday about my fellow Jews fighting a war for our people.

I’m very much aware, and repeat this regularly, that our Israeli brothers and sisters are on the frontline for all Jewish people, everywhere. On Yom HaZikaron, we are extraordinarily thankful for that reality. My boy is going off to university at 18. Yours is going into the laneway and hollowed out buildings of Gaza.

I’m a podcaster. My show is called The Avrum Rosensweig Show. My goal is to honor humankind through interviews with fascinating people and their inspiring stories. Hila Bar, of this publication, was one of my very special guests.

Over the last few days, I’ve interviewed a number of Israelis about their lives and response to Yom HaZikaron. My first interview was with Nir Maman, 47, who lives in Toronto but is a born Israeli. For the second time since October 7th, Nir returned to Israel to fight with his fellow soldiers against Hamas, in Hebron and then Gaza.

Nir is brave! I say this because his wife and five children remain home in northern Toronto, an area called Richmond Hill, as Nir fights this fight. I’ve asked him many times why or perhaps, how, did he make this decision?

He responds with great thought and an intense glare, “I am a soldier at heart. I am doing this for my children. I am doing this for the Jewish people. Sitting in Toronto just didn’t make sense. My wife said, ‘go.’ So I did.”

Nir lost a number of friends, fellow chayalim*, on October 7th and afterward. Like most soldiers I speak with, when he tells me about his fallen chaverim**, he chokes up, hesitates, apologizes and stoically continues telling me more about his training, his army buddies, and his motivation and deep love of Israel and the Jewish people.

I also interviewed Dr. Gabrielle Klein who made Aliyah many years ago. She lives in Judea and Samaria. Gab is a family doc and most of her patients are Charedi. She has learned a lot working with them. She tells me they have been highly supportive during these hard times.

Gab and her husband Dennis, are mourning the loss of her daughter’s fiancé, Hanan Drori. She describes Hanan as being a brilliant young man with an unending curiosity for life, nature and animals. He discovered a porcupine in Israel, rescued it and referred it to the Porcupine Association of Israel. Who would have thought? 

Gab is also thinking a lot about her son, Shlomo, who fought off dozens of terrorists on October 7th on his army base. He took a bullet to his arm but continued fighting for seven hours after that. Shlomo survived but lost a number of friends, including a buddy from grade one. He also has limited use of his arm at present.

Gabrielle has sad eyes. They used to dance. I’m hoping they dance again, soon.

I had an amazing schmooze with Heather Stone of Tel Aviv, who lost her sight in 2017. She had brain surgery and the results were not what she had expected, at least regarding her eyesight.

 Heather has a guide-dog named Schyler. He is a Labrador, as friendly as one could imagine and an extension of her, as she describes. She takes every opportunity to visit IDF soldiers with her dog, to cheer them up and hopefully make their lives better at least for a moment.

Heather told me, “There is nothing like a wet nose to make you happy.” So true. 

But her experiences are not always so pleasant. A colleague’s boy fell on October 7th. I asked her how she is. Her response, classic Israeli with a slight tilt of the head, “She is strong. What choice is there?” I say boy, but he died as a fighter, so a man. But he was her boy and will always be.

Yom HaZikaron 2024 is more than just remembering the 24,000 men, women and children who perished fighting for Israel and the Jewish people, as well as those Jews and non-Jews who died in terrorist attacks.

This year, Yom Hazikaron is far more than just memories for Nir, Gabrielle and Heather, and I surmise most Israelis. An Israeli friend who has experienced losses this year wrote to me a few minutes ago in response to my well-wishes to him on this day.

He writes, “Frankly, it’s been Yom HaZikaron in a sense for us since October 7th, so in fact this year is nothing special on this day.”

I think today might just be a strong reminder of the past, and it is a time which is part of a continuum of ongoing grief, sadness and hope for now and the future.

The Nation of Israel lives – a message from your fellow Jew in the Diaspora. Please know we are forever grateful you chose to live in Israel and send your children off to war. We know well, their battle is not only for you and the State of Israel, but similarly, it is for us, Jews in Toronto, New York, Paris, Argentina and wherever else we have made homes.

And, we like to think, and we hope you sense that we are playing our role as well, on the campuses, on diaspora streets, wherever anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.

 Am Yisrael Chai. We are a beautiful people. Kol hakavod. With love and appreciation.

Avrum

*soldiers

**friends

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