Rethinking Memorial Day

Memorial Day. I’ve always heard that it was the unofficial opening of summer. As much as the media talks about the beaches–open? closed? – in my memory, New York City rarely has summertime weather at the end of May.

This year, while much of the nation is back to business, and probably spreading the virus, NYC is not having sales, beaches, and parades. Officially, we are still in lockdown. And while staying at home doesn’t not honor our war dead, it is closer to the essence of Memorial Day than going out and partying. After all, the root of memorial is memory.

I never really understood Memorial Day until I lived in Israel. On Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, people stop. Restaurants and clubs are closed. There is a siren that sounds and everyone stops moving for two minutes. People get off buses, stop on highways and stand by their cars, and freeze wherever they are. Those who have died in battles and terrorist attacks are remembered. I remember being in Machane Yehuda, the open air market in Jerusalem, when the siren rang. I was near a shop that earlier that year had been bombed, killing the owner and bystanders. A women in front of me stopped, packages in both hands and stood in tears. The siren ended and we all moved on.

Israel smartly placed their Memorial Day adjacent to Independence Day. After a day filled with such emotion, everyone needs a good party. It is understood that in a young nation with so many wars and attacks, everyone knows someone who has died. This year, with the virus killing almost 100,000 people at this point, we understand that. Everyone has a parent, an aunt, a grandparent, a friend, a favorite musician that they know who died of the disease. There are too many.

When the Covid-19 virus was first identified, there was talk that that we were at war. So how will we memorialize our Covid-19 dead? Should we include them in this day, when we remember those who died in battle? Should we create a special day? Maybe the last day someone dies of it? Will that ever come?

My prayer this Memorial Day is the same as always.

May there come a day that there are no war dead to memorialize.

And I will add, may there come a day that no ones dies of Covid 19.

“Nations shall not raise a sword to anither nation. Neither shall they study war any more.” –Isaiah

I particularly like the last part. If you don’t study it, if you don’t learn it, you can’t do it.

About Gail F. Nalven

Jewish Educator, Rabbi, Tefillah Leader, Songleader, Teacher, and Freelance Jew
This entry was posted in Israel, Judaism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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