On Sunday night Israelis will hear the piercing blare of a siren marking the beginning of Yom HaZikaron LeHalelei Ma’arkhot Yisrael ul’Nifge’ei Pe’ulot HaEivah (יוֹם הזִּכָּרוֹן לְחַלְלֵי מַעַרְכוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל וּלְנִפְגְעֵי פְּעֻלּוֹת הָאֵיבָה‎) officially known as ”Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Acts of Terror,” marking the annual two day bi-polar emotional roller coaster of deep mourning for all of Israel’s fallen, and then a stark contrast of celebrating the miracle that is 76 years of an independent sovereign Jewish State.

Since the last Yom HaZikaron, there’s no question that Israel has experienced its most disastrous and painful year. So many families have joined the circle of bereavement this year: both families of terror victims and families of soldiers. The “family of bereavement” is a family no one wants to join. Yet, more than ever before, Israeli society seems able to come together as one family, united in pain, sorrow, love, and support.

This year we remember the 822 civilians and 711 (as of the time of writing) members of Israel’s security apparatus who were killed on October 7, 2023, and since the IDF began its ground campaign in Gaza on October 27, 2023.

We hold close the families of the remaining 132 hostages in Gaza who we pray will get out alive very soon.

This Shabbat we will mark “Shabbat Tekuma,” the Shabbat of Revival. This “revival” represents the dramatic turn from the tragedy of the Holocaust to the realization of the dream of a Jewish State. The word “Tekuma” takes on additional meaning this year. Tekuma in a post-October 7th reality refers specifically to rebuilding the kibbutzim and communities after the terror rampage that caused so much death and destruction and also can mean a revival of the lives destroyed. But, it also means rebuilding the North of Israel where tens of thousands of Israelis are still internally displaced. And, it means rebuilding a post-October 7th Israel in spirit, soul, and so much more.

During these national holidays, we are left with so many questions:

Will Israeli society come to a reckoning with its political and military leadership over its failures to prevent the tragic attack? Will Israeli society elect new leaders in an attempt to create a brighter and more secure future?

At this moment we are looking inwards, as a Jewish community, we ask where Israeli society is now, and how has what happened in Israel affected Diaspora Jews.

And we also ask, externally to those outside of our community, who are our friends, allies, and partners, and how have those relationships shifted in the past 7 months?

Our world has changed.

Externally, we are seeing a greater tendency to conflate Jewishness with Israeliness – regarding all Jews as somehow responsible for Israeli policy and complicit in everything they see that is wrong with the situation. It is often (wrongly) assumed that by identifying as a Zionist one cannot also hold sympathy for innocent Palestinians and/or be critical of Israeli governmental policies and actions. It is this external conversation – between the Jewish community and the world that requires significant attention and a great deal of work.

On this Yom Haatzmaut, in addition to being grateful and having reason to celebrate, we ought to double down on our commitment to creating a Jewish future that is safe and secure, moral and ethical.  In both our internal and external conversations, I would like to suggest asking each other the following three questions:

  1. Who are we? What is our narrative, and how did we get to where are today?
    This includes our own heritage and lineage as well as how we arrived at our own ideological and political positions.
  2. What are our fears?
    Often we act out of fear and when we discuss with one another it is critical to clarify what we are afraid of.
  3. What are our dreams?
    What do we want to see happen?  Do we want a two-state outcome? A one-state reality? An end to war and violence? Another alternative?


Yom Haatzmaut is our opportunity to celebrate Israel now. This is our chance to hit the restart button and return to the fundamental principles of Zionism. To revisit, re-learn, and re-examine the nationalist story of the Jewish people and our need for self-determination and self-defense as we pursue the dream of being a people, free in our Land.

NYT columnist Bret Stephens wrote:

“On Oct. 8, Jews woke up to discover who our friends are not. More than 3,800 years of Jewish history keeps yielding the same bracing lesson: In the long run, we’re alone. What can Oct. 8 Jews do? We can stop being embarrassed, equivocal or defensive about Zionism, which is, after all, one of the world’s most successful movements of national liberation… Jewish America abounds with dreamers and entrepreneurs who took crazy risks in their careers to find value and create things that never existed before. It’s time they apply the same talent and energy to creating new institutions that hew to genuinely liberal values, where Jews need never be afraid. In time, the rest of America may follow.”

Our individual narratives matched with our fears and dreams should lead us to action.  Zionism has always been about more than just self-defense and creating a safe haven from persecution and antisemitism. Zionism is the dream of creating a complete Jewish society that exists in Jewish time and Jewish space. That includes the fundamental and uncompromising principle that all who live under Jewish sovereignty are entitled to equal rights and equal treatment and that a Jewish state is one that upholds the principles of a free and fair democracy.

And as we celebrate Israel’s independence and affirm our interdependence as Jews whose fate is bound one with another and committed to a joint future for the safety of our body and the sustenance of our souls, we can work together to prevent our fears from materializing and use our collective strength to achieve our dreams.

Hag Atzmaut Sameach and Shabbat Tekuma Shalom.