The Candle and the Flag

The transition from Memorial Day to Israel’s Independence Day
April 13, 2021

The last vestiges of the memory candles of Holocaust Day
Have barely melted to quiet
And Memorial Day is upon us
In Israel.

How does one explain to an outsider
The tears that you carry in your throat
Throughout this week
As your friends and neighbors post on their Facebook pages
And in WhatsApp messages
Memories of
Their husbands their wives their sons their daughters
Their mothers their fathers their brothers their sisters
Who died in war
In the line of duty
Or at the hands of terrorists

My husband’s cousin
My son’s friend
My friends’ sons

My daughter’s aunt and uncle by marriage
Who have so many children
Named for them
We too have a grandchild in her memory
Rachel Emuna
Rachel, our matriarch, her great-aunt
And “faith”

I will never forget that naming
I will never forget those tears
Above all, after everything —
She is a red-headed child filled with spirit
Who does cartwheels through her home
In the Negev

The list goes on and on

Their names swirl and every sentence
Even about something banal
Catches in your throat

Because in Israel
Nothing is banal

When I light Shabbat candles
I see in my mind’s eye
The faces of my children
And my grandchildren
And God has blessed me with many faces to see

But when I light a candle tonight
There will be too many faces to summon
How do I choose?
They are all in my heart.

Their lives do cartwheels through my soul
For they were people filled with joy and a future
And they are the price we have paid

An internet meme
Astonishes in its simplicity and truth:
“We have two Memorial Days in Israel
One to remind us
Of the cost of having a state
And one to remind us
Of the cost of not.”

I reach high and hang the flag from our pergola
It flaps in the breeze, facing our garden
Among the cultured blooms
Are yellow and lavender wildflowers
That die every year, and then return

Tomorrow night we will sequester our tears
Pack them gently away
And join friends and family
In prayer and celebration

Hodu l’Hashem Ki Tov.* 

*Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
(Psalms 136 and in the Hallel prayer, recited on Yom Ha’atzmaut)

Rosh Hodesh Iyar
April 13, 2021

Toby Klein Greenwald is an award-winning journalist, director of Raise Your Spirits Theatre and editor-in-chief of WholeFamily.com. 

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