Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget


We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Field John McCrae
 
Today is November 11, commemorated in Commonwealth countries as Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day. In America, the Monday closest to Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day.
On November 11 in 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car in the forest of Compiègne, France. The fighting officially ended at 11:00 a.m., (the eleventh hour in the eleventh month on the eleventh day). As a school child, I remember wearing a plastic poppy on Remembrance Day, to remember the poppies that grew in the European killing fields. Lest we forget.
We memorized the poem In Flanders Field by John McCrae:
In Flander’s field the poppies grow

Except we were all Jewish, and it made us uncomfortable to be talking, even reciting, about crosses.

My Grade Three teacher, Mrs S., would always cry at the services we held. We always snickered at the really old teacher who was crying at some worn out old poems that we were reading. She must have been really old, we reasoned, because not only was she a teacher, Remembrance Day was about World War 1!, which happened a really long time ago!
Of course, years later, we discovered that Mrs. S’ brother had been killed in World War 2, and that she wasn’t that old, and that grief and longing never go away no matter how old you are.

It was only when I came to Israel, however, that I could begin to understood what grief means, how it leaves its mark on you (even if the loss is not personal); how it can well up inside you without warning, how crying at a memorial is the least of the problems.

Mrs S., whereever you might be, I deeply apologize to you.

Lest we forget.

I work at Ben-Gurion University. There is an American funding agency that awards grants for joint Israeli-American research projects. The dead line for the application was supposed to be tomorrow, November 12. They had forgotten it was Veteran’s Day, and at the last minute had to extend the deadline. Nobody had bothered beforehand to look at a calendar. Veteran’s Day, if I’m not mistaken, is just an great shopping day.

Lest we forget.

Four Israeli soldiers were injured last night when their jeep – on a patrol on the Israeli side of the border – was hit with an anti-tank missile. One soldier was injured very seriously, one seriously, and two moderately. Four civilians were hit today, all suffered moderate to light wounds. Altogether, about 50 rockets have been fired into Southern Israel in the last 20 or so hours, including at least two that hit Beer Sheva, sirens going off just as the kids were leaving school. The timing was intentional.

It has been forgotten that there are people who really do want to hurt us and our children. It has been forgotten that while one society wants nothing more than love and peace, another really really truly truly desires – and fights for – death and destruction.

We have forgotten that Lest we forget is not only an admonition not to forget the bravery and the heroism and the ultimate sacrifice of allied soldiers and their families in the two World Wars but also to remember how those sacrifices came about. Evil was allowed to flourish; it was excused; it was ignored; it was allowed to spread. 

We have forgotten that there is real evil in the world.

On this Remembrance Day, please remember those who gave their lives so you could live yours in freedom and in plenty, so that you can demonstrate and complain and shout to your heart’s content. But please also remember the evil that lives on as a direct descendent of the evil of then, as a descendant of Amalek, who attacked the weak who lagged behind the rest of Bnei Yisrael in their wanderings in the desert, who aimed at women in their cars, and children leaving schools.

Remember John McCrae’s words:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Remember also: I (G-d) will bless those who bless you (Israel), and whoever curses you, I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:3