Memorial Day, observed this Monday, was created to honor the memory of American soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Too often it is marked more by barbecues and consumer sales than with the somber dignity it deserves, a time to consider and give thanks for the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Services here and around the world to protect the homeland.
On Tuesday, Israelis and Zionists across the globe will commemorate Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in June 1967, when Israel reclaimed the Old City during the Six-Day War. Those who remember that day felt a sense of the miraculous, bearing witness to a moment that was 2,000 years in the making. It was an answer to the ancient prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The day is one of celebration in Jerusalem, but for too many of us, especially those who have come to take Jewish statehood and a unified Jerusalem for granted, it is just another day.
We owe it to those who came before us, and to ourselves, to reflect this Memorial Day and Jerusalem Day on the sacrifices that were made on our behalf. And with gratitude and humility we should appreciate what it means to be an American Jew in the 21st century, a time and a place of more freedom for Jews than ever in our long history.