This is a somewhat unusual topic for this blog, or perhaps a sign that I'm finally getting with the spirit of Web 2.0.
Today is Israeli Memorial Day. We remember the soldiers and civilians that were killed in wars and terrorist attacks during the history of Israel. In Israel, this day is taken very seriously (e.g., the notion of a Memorial Day Sale does not exist). As a striking example, at 11AM on this day, there is a siren sounded throughout the country. Every person, and I mean, every single person, will stop what she or he are doing and will stand with respect for 2 minutes. If you're driving a car, you stop the car and stand outside. 2 minutes of complete stoppage. Immediately after the siren, the memorial services begin at all the cemeteries. In the evening, as the sun sets, the country turns from a day of mourning to a day of celebration of its independence. It's quite a striking transition.
For me this is always a very special day. My middle name, Yitzchak, is in memory of my uncle (my father's brother) who was killed in 1948 during the war of independence. He was 27 when he was killed, serving in the Israeli Air Force. I, of course, never got to meet him, but indirectly, he influenced my life quite a bit. He inspired my father to get into chemistry, which took him to academia. In growing up, I never questioned whether I'd end up as an academic or not.
Since moving to the Bay Area, I've been attending the Memorial Day ceremonies organized by the local Tzofim (the scouts). As part of the ceremony, they read out the names of fallen ones who have relatives in this area. They read the names in chronological order of their deaths. It struck me as I was sitting there tonight that I was sitting in anticipation to hear the end of the list, i.e., the new additions from last year. Unfortunately, due to the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the list was indeed longer, and their stories heartbreaking as usual. Let us all hope these lists stop growing longer. There is too much unnecessary pain already in the region.