University of Haifa International School Student Blog
On Yom Hazikaron citizens all over Israel ask themselves “Why me?” Why out of all the countries in the world is ours so rocked by war? Why out of all the people in the country am I affected more by the conflict? Why me? Why have I lost a loved one?
On Yom Hazikaron, I joined in with Israelis in asking myself “Why me?”
“Why me?” Is a question we often ask ourselves at our moments of greatest despair. Why have I been chosen for this fate? Why has my luck run out? Why couldn’t someone else have taken my place? The question of why me, however, is just as applicable in our moments of greatest fortune; what did I do to merit such an honor? Why have I been chosen among so many worthy candidates?
It is for this reason that I asked myself “Why me?” as the only non-Israeli to be taking part in the national Yom Hazikaron ceremony on Har Herzl. I asked myself, what I had done to deserve such an honor. Why was I, of all people, the representative of world Jewry, and the guest of Natan Sharansky.
My initial answers to this question were many, but incomplete. I had come to Israel to study for a year but so had countless other students. I study Hebrew and Jewish studies with the hope of becoming a college professor, but there are students in my field who are likely more qualified. I love Israel with all my heart, but refuse to accept all the policies of her government and constantly demand better from the State, the same as most students who study the conflict.
So I was left with that nagging “Why me?” Why, of all the countless other qualified individuals, was I the sole representative of world Jewry at such an important ceremony? Why was my presence included on national TV amongst soldiers, government officials, the Prime Minister and grieving families? I slowly realized that I was the representative for world Jewry not because of something extraordinary I had done, but rather because of how common my experiences have been. I was chosen because many Diaspora Jews could see a reflection of themselves in my experiences and my identity. I am a Jew who feels my homeland is in Israel, but I am at home in the Diaspora, a Jew who is proud of his heritage but unsure where he fits in the history of his people. I am a Jew who mourns along with all other Jews on Yom Hazikaron, but one who will likely never know the true, personal pain and sacrifice of having a loved one fall in combat.
Yom Hazikaron reminds each person that “Why me?” embodies the heart of the conflict in Israel. The majority of the victims on all sides are innocent bystanders, and no adequate answers can ever be found for why so many have met such a cruel fate. But the question also represents the unique and precious opportunity each of us has in Israel: any person, at any time, has the opportunity to participate in something historic.
My participation was uniquely meaningful because it illustrated that while Yom Hazikaron may speak differently to each of us based on our life experiences, every Jew in Israel and abroad has an inseverable connection to the day. Asking the question “Why me?” is an exercise in futility: it misses the all-encompassing nature of the day. We all lose in cases of such senseless death; this tragedy is our collective tragedy, in Israel, abroad, and worldwide.