Rabbi Daniel Allen
Executive Director ARZA, The Reform Israel Fund
Haggai. I danced at his wedding in the fall of 1971. He was a proud member of the IDF Tank Corps. The wedding was at Kibbutz Na’an not far from Rehovot. My first Israeli wedding. We laughed and danced. He embraced me into the “kibbutz family” into which my sister would marry in February. On the first day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Haggai was killed on the Golan. He is buried not far from where he fell.
Haggai was born on the 29th of November 1973, an auspicious day in our Zionist/Israeli history. He was the first child on Kibbutz Na’an to have been named for another person in decades, certainly the first to be named for a recent fallen soldier. We have embraced many times, including his Bar Mitzvah, and danced together at his wedding. He served in one of those IDF units that when you ask what they do you never get an answer. He has served in senior positions in his party, as a senior aide to the Minister of Defense, met with heads of state, and is an emerging thought leader within his party and the kibbutz movement. He is my nephew.
Each year, the day before or on Yom HaZikaron, he goes to the grave of his namesake. Whether I am in Israel or not, I am standing at his side along with so many others. We all have various kinds of moments. I think that often Israelis have Yom HaZikaron moments even when it is not Yom HaZikaron. When you pass a plaque on a street where a bus was blown up, it is a Yom HaZikaron moment. When you drive past or visit Ammunition Hill, the Davidka, or on your way into Haifa where the road sign says Atlit, it is a Yom HaZikaron moment.
But, more often than not, these moments occur in the company of people. When you are on the beach in Tel Aviv as you notice the ball player with a missing limb, it is a Yom HaZikaron moment. When you see a single mother and, depending on her age, you can identify perhaps when she acquired this unasked for and unwanted status, you are having a Yom HaZikaron moment.
The moments do not last long. In fact, we are commanded that even as we remember evil done to us, we are not to dwell on those moments. But, they are unavoidable to Israelis and to so many of us who do not yet dwell in Medinat Yisrael. For me, my Yom HaZikaron moments come regularly when I speak with Haggai, when I see him, or when I read his latest published piece in the newspaper, or his name comes up in family conversation. I love our Haggai and miss our Haggai. I relish in his accomplishments and miss the unfulfilled promises of his too young life lost defending our people. And I know that my Yom HaZikaron moments are always followed by the grand, wonderful, and yes, occasionally frustrating reality of Israel and my personal and peoplehood liberating moments, my Yom Ha’atzmaut moments.