Remembering those who passed: Yom Hazikaron

5 May

My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

In 2005, I took my children and parents to Israel for a family wedding and a three-generational trip. We hired a private guide, as my Dad had a heart condition, and I wanted the trip to be as easy as possible for him.   It was wonderful in that sense. Our tour guide knew all the downhill paths for my Dad to walk.

Although my daughter was in college at the time, my son was just in eighth grade. I was a little concerned about taking him to Yad V Shem and Mt. Herzl. But we went because it was important.

At Yad V Shem, the Holocaust Memorial, my son was uncomfortable, especially when we went through the memorial for the children who perished. But the map of Europe and the destroyed communities felt more comfortable. He walked through that section with my Dad. They stopped at Bialystok, where my Dad’s family had lived before coming to the US. And my Dad told him some stories.  My son sat and thought about what he had seen.

After that it was to Mount Herzl. To see all the graves of young men and women who died fighting for Israel was difficult. My son asked a question, “Why are there some stones with no names, or no dates on them?”

These are the graves of people who came over from Europe, who survived the camps. The first thing they did upon arriving in Israel was to fight for survival again for the independence of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, many of them no one knew their name or their date of birth. Just the day they died.   This is what the guide told my son.

We continued walking through the cemetery to the graves of famous people, when I realized my son was missing.   I did not want to go yelling through a cemetery, but I was concerned. So we all split up looking for him.

Then I saw him putting stones on a grave. This is a Jewish tradition. We do not leave flowers, we leave stones as remembrances.. This is an old tradition, and I am not sure why. But I think perhaps as we return to dust, we become part of the ground. I could be wrong.

In any case, there he was putting stones on the graves of soldiers.

“What are you doing? Why did you leave us?” I demanded.

“Mom,” he said. “I am putting stones on all the graves of people with no names. I wanted to make sure someone remembered them. I wanted them to know someone loved them.”

My heart; my son. I still cry for these unnamed soldiers. And I still cry remembering the love in my son.

Yom HaZikaron. We will always remember.

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