On Wednesday, at 11am, my country will come to a standstill.
A siren will sound. Drivers will stop on the highways and get out of their cars. Together, Israelis will stand as one to recall the sacrifice of those we’ve lost to terror and conflict in the fight for self-determination.
The moment marks Yom HaZikaron, our memorial day. For too many of us here, it’s a day that carries a searing, personal pain. For those of us who have served in the Israeli Defense Forces, and worry for children who still do, the moment of solidarity carries special meaning. For me, it’s also a moment of resolve and resolution.
A long time ago, I realized that the best way to honor those we have lost to the cycle of violence and conflict is to commit ourselves to ending it. To work toward peace, and a future in which the pain we feel does not have to be felt by others.
That’s why I’ll also be attending the annual, joint memorial ceremony for both Israelis and Palestinians lost to the conflict.
It’s one of the largest memorial gatherings in Israel, but many on the right believe it to be an abhorrent event. In earlier years, protesters yelled abuse over the fence, intimidated people at the gates and sought to have Palestinians banned from attending.
But as a former IDF officer, I believe there could be no more profound expression of our Jewish values. We share our pain. We share our anguish. We share our compassion. Both sides recognize our shared humanity, mirrored victims in a pernicious political conflict.
That this day is commemorated a day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, is no accident. It reminds us that freedom and self-determination are hard won, that the struggle to make true our founding ideals of justice, equality and democracy is ongoing.
I look forward to wiping away the tears after Yom HaZikaron and celebrating our independence the day after. The miracle that our founders were able to carve a thriving, resilient, democratic homeland after so many years of exile and suffering.
At the same time — as I recall my experiences serving in occupied territory — I will be reminded that we Israelis cannot truly be free until the Palestinian people are also permitted to realize their fundamental right to self-determination. That the founding values in our Declaration of Independence demand an end to the injustice of the occupation, and the realization of Israel as a just and moral democracy for all its citizens.
In recommitting to that work, I am truly humbled that we travel the path with so many both in Israel and beyond our shores. Fighting for our founding values is what it means to be pro-Israel. It is what it means pro-peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian joint memorial ceremony will be streamed live at 1:30pm Eastern on Tuesday the 13th, with a recording available for viewing thereafter.