Bridging the Gap of Experience: An Appeal for Yom Hazikaron

Since Simchas Torah, our people have been actively engaged in an existential battle against an enemy intent on destroying us. Hundreds of Israel’s precious soldiers have given their lives, and thousands have been wounded in defense of our land and its inhabitants, changing the lives of their families forever. Thousands of Israelis have been living for months with the unimaginable tension of having a child, spouse, parent, or sibling on the front lines as they await the dreaded knock on the door.

There is an unbridgeable gap between them and those of us who have not shared that experience and who cannot possibly imagine it. A dear friend lost his son, a reservist who was exempt from service as a father of six but nevertheless went voluntarily to the front lines. Thinking of his child who literally gave his life for the Jewish People and of the wife and children who proudly encouraged him and sent him into battle, my friend cannot bear hearing others bandy about the term “mesirut nefesh” to describe things like traveling three hours to a wedding or staying after an event to clean up. Those of us far from the front lines really have no clue what true mesirut nefesh is.

We need to recognize that this is currently the deepest division in Klal Yisrael, the disparity in lived experience between those bearing the direct burden of the war and those removed from it. It is a space that needs to be filled by pure and unadulterated empathy, nesiut b’ol im chaveiro, trying our hardest to understand the other’s experience. The more we engage in that, the closer we become to each other, and the more we move toward healing our divisions and bringing both comfort and strength to those who have given Klal Yisrael so much.

We are approaching a day when thousands will grieve for those whose spilled blood is flowing through our land. Every year, the 4th or 5th of Iyar is observed as Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, dedicated to remembering today’s holy harugei Lod, the soldiers who gave their lives for Eretz Yisrael. It is a day of intense mourning for the families and communities of those who serve, but it has not been seriously observed beyond those circles, either in Israel or the United States.

This year, when so many families in Israel are grieving their raw and fresh losses, we must join them in their grief, mitablim imahem. We must do more than a formal and generic commemoration. Each of the hundreds of soldiers who have given their lives this year represents a world. Each deserves to be remembered individually by having their story told and by having Torah learned and tefillot said in their memory. Each and every one of their families deserves to know that their sacrifice is recognized as having been on behalf of all of Klal Yisrael.

This Yom Hazikaron, let us bridge the gap of experience and join the families of the fallen in recalling and appreciating their profound sacrifice. We at the OU plan to ensure that on that day there will be a broad and deep expression of profound ahavat Yisrael and nesiut b’ol im chaveiro that crosses the ocean and the gap of experience, remembering each and every soldier uniquely in one of our shuls or schools; and bringing uplift to their souls, strength and comfort to their families, and hopefully bringing the geulah a bit closer.

Please act now to include your shul or school in this opportunity by undertaking to memorialize one of the kedoshim. Please reach out to or register at to participate in this effort.