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Approaching Memorial Day

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

As we approach Memorial Day in the US, it’s appropriate to think for a minute about what that really means. Sadly, Memorial Day is something about which the US could learn a lot from Israel where the juxtaposition of Memorial Day observance is vivid. This year, you can be part of a healing process that involves both remembering, and creating new memories.

While the US does hold numerous Memorial Day observances, it’s really seen as the start of the summer, a long holiday weekend, and a day on which people shop “Memorial Day Sales.” It’s even common to hear store clerks and others wishing one another a “Happy Memorial Day!” When you think about it, it’s glaring.

In Israel, however, Memorial Day is a time of solemn national reflection and grief for our communal and individual losses. This involves the nation as a whole, and the sum of hundreds of thousands of people who have lost a loved one. In Israel, on Memorial Day, as many as 20% of the country visit a cemetery.

Our national TV and radio only play somber broadcasts. Cafes, movie theaters and other placed of entertainment close. Countless individual communities have special ceremonies for those they still mourn. This year, we remembered some 27,000 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, neighbors, etc. Virtually everybody knows somebody who died whether to war or terror.

In America, like in Israel, there are special dates that are observed with unique memorials recalling lives taken: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the day of a particular battle, etc. But there is not one day, like in Israel, where terror victims and those killed in battle are remembered together. Not from Ground Zero or the Pentagon. Not in Orlando or San Bernadino. And not Oklahoma City or Ft. Hood.

Israel remembers all our victims because in a very real way, whether on a battlefield during the Six Day or Yom Kippur Wars, or in a bus, café or on a street corner on a Tuesday, our victims are all part of the same war against us and our very struggle for existence.

Yet, despite the profound day of mourning, when the nation as a whole gets a figurative lump in its throat all day, there is inspiration, hope and the opportunity to create new memories. We learn of heroism amid death. We hear songs that are mournful yet hopeful. We put aside frivolity for a day and concentrate on the most important aspects of appreciating life, and living. And we come together as a nation to support one other, despite religious and political differences that often divide us.

One way in which Israel creates new memories to overcome and move beyond the losses we have suffered, individually and nationally, is through Israel’s pre-eminent healing program for families of victims of terror and other tragedy. The Koby Mandell Foundation runs a variety of programs including Camp Koby, to provide therapeutic healing for bereaved children. Among the thousands of children who have benefitted from Camp Koby, there are two common denominators: that each has lost a loved one and that each is able to create new memories through individual and collective experiences that are healing. They are able to learn to rise above their grief, not to be victims but to become stronger and resilient.

One of the deep paradoxes is that while it costs $2000 to provide a year of healing programs to help one bereaved Israeli child through Camp Koby, often the terrorists and their families themselves get an annual stipend from the Palestinian Authority far greater than that.

Yet our job in Israel is the healing. You can be part of that.

This Memorial Day, wherever you are, take a moment to remember those whose lives were cut short, in the US, in Israel, or other parts of the world where war and terror have left deep and sometimes invisible scars. Be a part of helping some of the youngest, most vulnerable victims to heal by joining Camp Koby in our Scholarship Fund campaign. This year, all donations will be DOUBLED, so not only can you help a bereaved Israeli child but you can double your healing impact.

Through Camp Koby, you can make a positive impact that will last generations.

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