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Memorial Day halfway across the world

We were recently in Israel when Independence Day celebrations were approaching. The festivities would include fireworks over the Old City in Jerusalem and free open air concerts featuring many of Israel’s top entertainers in the major cities, revelers in the streets like a wholesome Mardi Gras, not to mention private parties going late into the night, the entire country celebrating as one.

But the day before Independence Day, Memorial Day was observed, again the entire people as one in its observation.

Both occasions – In Memoriam and Independence – were regarded as two aspects of one thing. As dusk approached ushering in Memorial Day Eve, the shops and restaurants started rolling up the sidewalks so that by sunset they were locked and vacant, a virtually universal closing down of any pleasure-related business for the duration of the observation.

Even the gas stations, which kept their automated pumps open, shut down their mini marts. You couldn’t buy even a bottle of water. The radio and television broadcasts became subdued, somber. As 8 p.m. approached, we were on the fast, busy, and rather competitive six-lane major freeway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Suddenly at 8, all the cars pulled to the side of the freeway - the entire freeway empty, at a dead stop. As one, everyone got out of their cars and stood silently at attention in commemoration as a siren sounded honoring the dead. That moment of silent unity was powerfully moving, the entire country grieving as one.

Anna Monday

 

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