May 3, 2012
Visitors and immigrants to Israel shed tears, show respect for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror
By the end of the third video, sniffles were audible around the amphitheater.
Thousands of Jews from around the world gathered in Israel Wednesday, April 25, at the Latrun memorial for fallen soldiers of the Israeli Armored Corps to mark Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. The holiday honors soldiers killed while defending the Jewish State and honors Jewish victims of terror. Sponsored by Masa – a network of Israel study, internship and volunteer programs affiliated with The Jewish Agency and Government of Israel – the ceremony attracted an estimated 3,000 Jewish young adults hailing from as far as California, Russia and South America, and many experiencing Israel’s Memorial Day for the first time.
The powerful impact of the ceremony, which included Masa video clips of soldiers who had immigrated from abroad, was evident even before it began, with its historically meaningful setting. Participants of more than 200 Masa Israel-experience programs flowed onto the grounds of Latrun, a strategic hilltop for Jewish military campaigns from Joshua’s defeat of the Amorites to the Six Day War in 1967.
“You never realize how big the Jewish community is until you come to something like this and hear all the accents,” said Meryl Fontek, 18, of Englewood, N.J. “Being in Israel has expanded my view of what it means to be part of the Jewish community.”
For Elie Flatow, 19, of Great Neck, N.Y., the Masa ceremony held an extra layer of significance because a relative, Alissa Flatow, was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing in 1995. “Knowing somebody in your family was killed in Israel makes Yom Hazikaron more meaningful,” he said. “Today, we’re all here sharing it together.”
Both Fontek and Flatow are participating in a Masa-sponsored Torah study program for post-high school students. Other ceremony attendees are in Israel to volunteer or pursue internships, such as working for Israel’s Security Authority or the Ministry of Tourism.