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Twelve torches of Israel

Tonight, the Jewish people will pause for a moment of silence.

Sirens will wail across the Israel like a single cry carried in the wind. A nation will bow its head, whispering a prayer for peace, with deep gratitude for those who made the ultimate sacrifices.

27,904 men and women, our sisters and brothers, our sons and daughters, casualties of bloody wars, victims of vicious terror attacks, including the four people killed on Sunday by Hamas missiles fired from Gaza. Those who have been killed for being Israeli, for being Jewish.

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s National Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, is a sacred, holy day. A day that brings us together, closer, weeping for our dead, looking for comfort.

Yom Hazikaron, more than any other day, is the day I feel my Israeli identity at its strongest, prouder, so grateful, humble and appreciative, yet so sad.

27,904 is more than a number, it is 27,900 unfulfilled dreams, 27,904-scarred families, bleeding souls, broken hearts.

Its 27,904 laughter we miss daily, its endless pain that never heals, it is the black hole that never cease to grow and deepen.

However, this year, Yom Hazikaron bears another dimension. The grief has spread beyond our borders, the sorrow has touched members of other Jewish communities. They, too, have become victims of hatred, victims of terror, far away from the land of Israel.

Twelve innocent victims of the two massacres in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Poway, California have joined this year’s long list of terror victims. Their families now have joined the ever-growing bereaved family—those who walk hand in hand with fellow mourners who have lost their loved ones and forever cry.

The two Shabbatot of Oct. 27 and Apr. 27 will be remembered as landmarks in the history of the Jewish community of North America. The monstrous beast has awakened, lifting its vicious head, spreading fear and animosity.

Anti-Semitic attacks increased by 13 percent worldwide in 2018, according to Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center, marking it as the most violent in decades. With nearly 400 severe attacks and the highest number of casualties, this past year reminds us of dark days where hatred for the sake of hatred was acceptable.

But it is not. It never was. It never can be.

Tomorrow night, as the State of Israel sheds its sorrow to replace it with joy and gratitude in celebrating its 71st anniversary, Jeff Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh will be standing on top of mount Herzl in Jerusalem, lighting a torch on behalf of Jewish unity and solidarity. Jeff will carry the flame for the eleven victims killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and for Lori Gilbert-Kaye who died in Poway.

The Jewish People torch will be joined by 11 other torches carried by Israelis from all backgrounds, representing Israel’s beauty, the Jewish people at their best and Jewish pride at its zenith.

Twelve torches marking the 12 tribes of Israel. United in sorrow, we shall rejoice and celebrate Israel’s independence with pride, while remembering those no longer here with us today.

Leah Garber,

Vice President,  Director, JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement

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