Growing up in the United States, I never felt much emotion on either Memorial Day or Independence Day, which are marked more than a month apart. In Israel, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut are two of the most somber and joyous days of the year. The proximity of the two holidays on the calendar – they are marked each year on consecutive days in the month of Iyar – mirrors the proximity all Israelis have to the losses we have suffered, both personal and national, and the pride we feel for our state.
Jewish tradition places a heavy emphasis on remembrance. Our prayers and rituals are filled with reminders of God’s miracles and the righteous deeds of our ancestors, We are even commanded to remember Amalek, the prototype enemy of the Jewish people, because we know he will rise up in every generation.
Likewise, we have taken a personal responsibility to remember those individuals who sacrificed their lives on our behalf, who fell in battle, who were victims of persecution and terrorism, and who died tragically. Every community in Israel has numerous memorials to fallen soldiers, victims of terror, the Holocaust, and other historic tragedies. Some are elaborate creations by world renowned artists, while others are unsophisticated and simple. All of them, however, are poignant reminders of the reality of the world we live in.
This photo essay features a sampling of memorials found in several locations across Israel. May we know peace and have no need to create new memorials.
Yehoshua Halevi is a photojournalist, event photographer, teacher, trekking guide and writer who lives in the Judean Mountains south of Jerusalem. A self-taught photographer, his work has appeared in National Geographic publications and major Jewish publications around the world. He is also the creator of a weekly photo blog entitled Israel the Beautiful, which can be viewed at http://israelthebeautiful.blogspot.com/ You can view more of his work at www.goldenlightimages.com.
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