Reflections on Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha’atzmaut

Starting Sunday night, Israel and the Jewish people will observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, followed by a celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. These holidays are moments to reconnect with Israel and the sacrifices and achievements so many have made on behalf of the Jewish state.

This year feels different. This year, we will gather a little over seven months after the horrific attacks of October 7th. The war in Gaza continues amid significant loss and suffering. There is a deep sense of instability and insecurity in Israel and Jewish communities around the world. Moreover, the politics dividing Israel, the American Jewish community, and the broader American public are becoming more complicated by the day.

Understandably, convictions and emotions are running high. Whether our words are spoken into a loudspeaker or at a seder table, it’s clear that Jews in our community and around the world have many different views, experiences, and perspectives. Some of us are steadfast in our beliefs; some of us are struggling to figure out where exactly we stand; and some of us don’t know if there is a place where we can share our thoughts.

And so, this year, as we pause to honor those who gave their lives for Israel and who helped build Israeli society, our commemorations should also include time to listen and to engage each other in conversation to understand one another’s perspectives.

This isn’t to say there aren’t clear and decisive actions we can take, as I will continue to share in my It’s Friday messages. But for all the intensity of this moment, one of the most impactful things we can do is also the most delicate. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l, argued, after all, that the greatest antidote to discord is conversation. In listening to the fears of others, we discover the “genesis of hope.”

Disagreement is okay. Tension is okay. Jews have long valued debate across a wide variety of topics, including the most sacred points of our tradition. Where we must be unequivocal is in our need to stay connected.

I can think of no better way to honor the hope and promise of Israel and the integrity of the Jewish people than by staying in relationship and making room for more and greater truths.

Shabbat Shalom,
Gil Preuss
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington