Reeling after three days of nonstop rocket barrages from Gaza, and fully aware that the ceasefire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists is temporary, Israelis are preparing for this year’s Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremonies with particular sadness and no small degree of frustration.
This evening, when the Jewish state enters into a 24-hour mourning period for all the fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terrorism who have been killed since its inception, four new names will have been added to the list. Four new sets of spouses, children, parents and siblings will have earned the dreaded label of “bereaved.”
Each will wish he or she could have turned the clock back to the minute before Moshe Agadi, Moshe Feder, Ziad al-Hamamda and Pinchas Menachem Pashwazman were murdered by missile fire that changed the course of their history.
Agadi, a 58-year-old father of four, was killed on Saturday night when a rocket hit his Ashkelon home. He had gone outside to smoke a cigarette and didn’t make it back to the bomb shelter in time to avoid being struck by shrapnel in his chest and stomach.
Moshe Feder, a 68-year-old father of two from Kfar Saba, was killed on Sunday while on his way to Erez Thermoplastic Products, the plant near the Gaza border where he worked as head roofer. Feder’s car was targeted by a Kornet anti-tank guided missile.
Ziad al-Hamamda, a 47-year-old Bedouin Israeli father of seven, was killed on Sunday by shrapnel to the chest when the factory where he worked in Ashkelon took a direct hit by a rocket.
Pinchas Menachem Pashwazman, a 21-year-old married father of a toddler, was killed on Sunday as well. A dual Israeli-American citizen, he was hit in the chest by shrapnel while running in the stairwell of an Ashdod building towards its bomb shelter.
Four Israelis, whose lives had nothing particular in common last week, are now indelibly linked in death. All slaughtered by bloodthirsty Palestinian jihadists bent on Israel’s destruction. All forever connected by virtue of the latest, but by no means the last, onslaught from Gaza.
Four families whose names will always be noted and quoted together by virtue of their shared tragedy over the course of a single fateful weekend.
What they will not be, however, is forgotten. Unlike the terrorists with a grip on Gaza—who have spent the billions of dollars, euros and shekels earmarked for “rehabilitation” on deadly weapons, while using their people as hapless human shields and faceless cannon fodder—Israelis honor every individual casualty of war.
Indeed, reading aloud the names, ages and circumstances of the deaths of each will be part and parcel of the solemn events held in schools, community centers, parks and cemeteries across the country beginning tonight and continuing through Wednesday.
Two sirens will be sounded: the first, for one minute, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday; the second, for two minutes, on Wednesday at 11 a.m. When these sirens go off, everyone in the country will stand in silence, head lowered, to pay homage to Israel’s fallen.
Undoubtedly, some people’s hearts will jump at the sound, believing it to indicate yet another rocket barrage.
Though air-raid sirens rise and fall, while those used for mourning are monotone, it is hard at times for traumatized members of the public to distinguish between them. Just as many young children who were taught last week to stand in silence for Holocaust Remembrance Day mistakenly assumed the somber position when they heard the warning of an incoming blitz from Gaza, adults this week are likely to be confused in the opposite direction. The irony is as tragic as the situation is untenable.
Yet somehow, in spite of it all, Israelis continue to rank high on the happiness scale, and, according to a new study by the Israel Democracy Institute, a majority believes that the country’s achievements outweigh its failures.
This cheer will be in full display as soon as Yom Hazikaron ends on Wednesday evening and the country erupts into celebration for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. Fear of missiles and the act of mourning will be replaced by fireworks and dancing at night, and barbecues the following day.
While Hamas and Islamic Jihad plot their next assault on the Jewish state from their hell-hole in Gaza, we Israelis will be wishing our thriving democracy a happy 71st birthday with a vengeance.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”