Monday, April 23, 2007

Moving On: Israel Teaches the World a Lesson

Don’t get me wrong, I am as shocked and mortified by the tragedy at Virginia Tech as the next guy. But a week later, and our headlines are still all about Seung-Hui Cho and his murderous rampage on the VT campus. If it’s one thing I was taught by living in Israel, it’s that life goes on, and truly honoring a victim of tragedy is accomplished by going on with your life, and living it to the fullest.

In Israel, every person has been touched by tragedy, every person has lived through the loss of a loved one. It would be all too easy for people to wallow in their misery, to spend their time mourning the dead and not move forward with their lives. But if Israelis did that, there would be no state of Israel today. Israel can’t afford for its people to be mired in self pity. Perhaps, no one can afford this luxury in today’s world.

Israel assures that people move on with their lives in a timely fashion. One of the ways they accomplish this is symbolized in the two largest national holidays: Memorial Day and Independence Day. In Israel, these days are back to back, with only 60 seconds, a siren, and the lighting of a candle standing between the two days. And the holidays are a clear sign to all Israelis to mourn their fallen victims and then move forward with life.

Memorial Day is completely somber in Israel. Music is forbidden. The television stations show a scrolling list of all the people who have fallen in Israel, that begins at sunset at the beginning of Memorial Day and doesn’t end until sunset the next day. During the holiday, sirens go off simultaneously throughout the country 3 times, and everyone stops what they are doing at that moment to remember the fallen heroes.

The remarkable moment is the transition between Memorial Day and Independence Day. At sunset, the third siren sounds, and Memorial Day is finished by the lighting of a candle. Immediately after, fireworks go off, and the somber mood instantaneously changes to one of jubilation.

Independence Day is a celebration. The evening is often marked by live music and dancing. The next day features rides for the children and an air show where the Israeli air force sends their best fighters up and down the Mediterranean coast to perform for the Israeli people. No one works on Independence Day, and the people get together to celebrate the beautiful country they have worked together to build.

Perhaps one of my most memorable incidents in Israel was watching a professional singer who had lost her son in a terrorist attack that year. She was openly weeping during Memorial Day, mourning the loss of her one and only child. But then, when Independence Day began, it was her responsibility to sing for the kibbutz, and she rose to the occasion, singing with a joy and exuberance that infected everyone around her.

Basically, Israel has made a clear statement that there must be a limit on the mourning, that the time comes when you must continue living your life. This is a lesson that the rest of the world needs to learn. Because the best way to honor victims of tragedies such as those at Virginia Tech is to go on living your life, and to do something significant with it, in the wake of these incidents.

Posted by Scottage at 3:34 PM / | |