The first time I heard the sirens was when I was studying in Yeshiva in the mid-1980's, and it made a big impression on me.
Little did I know that I would hear the sirens "for real", during the first Gulf War...as Iraqi scud missiles slammed into Israel in 1991. For 2 months the air raid sirens would warn us of incoming scuds -- reminding us to head for cover and put on our gas masks.
Since then, for me, the air raid siren on Yom HaZikaron became alot more meaningful.
Despite there also being a siren on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) tonight's siren evokes much more sharper and painful memories. Every year, IDF soldiers die to keep Israel's borders secure -- so that we can continue living in a semblance of normalcy.
When you go to the center of town, to a cafe, shopping at a mall, drive along the highway, go to the Kotel, or just pick up your kids from gan, there are IDF soldiers protecting our country around the clock, every day of the year.
They have to drive on shabbat, fly on Yom Kippur, and miss Pesach seder with their family to guard the borders and keep Israel secure.
And this year, 180 of them gave their lives so that we could celebrate this coming Yom Ha'Atzmaut.
We also commemorate fallen civilians who were victims of terrorism.
Between the fallen soldiers and terror victims, I can think of too many that I personally knew that are no longer with us. Looking at the bookshelf to my right, I can count NINE books dedicated to the memories of friends of mine and acquaintances, who died by "Al Kiddush Hashem" -- who died as Jews fighting for Israel's survival, or who died as Jews living for Israel's survival.
When the siren goes off tomorrow morning, I'll be thinking of lots of people I knew...Soldiers...Friends...And Danny.
He was an act-er, not a stage actor plying the craft of dramatic performance, but an act-er, a do-er, an achieve-er -- someone who did not practice costumed pretense, but who was propelled by the need to carry out his convictions and fulfill his dreams.
As we savor our lives, and exhibit our dramas, so much of what we think of as action, is in fact, re-action. Decisions that swim with the tide, re-acting to what others are doing, or to what they might think. It is safe, it requires little justification in front of peers, and it helps remove the need to formulate or execute an ideology. Genuine act-ers are truly undervalued.
The man of action in question was called Danny Frei ז"ל. He worked hard to fulfill his dreams and make hem reality. As the months have passed letters of consolation and projects initiated in his memory testify to his love for fellow Jews, and just how special this person was. That is the thing about being someone special -- you just can't seem to avoid affecting everyone you meet -- it comes with the job.
Danny was a born leader and teacher. He inspired people simply by being himself. He was always actively involved in youth work; Sinai, Ezra, Bnei Akiva, school walking tours, Study Group, the Givat Washington programme and teaching at the Teenage Centre, the JFS and King David Schools. In Israel, Danny ran the Yavneh Olami Bet Midrash, worked with the Hebrew University Chavruta Programme, new olim, underprivileged children and Tochnit Shabbat. Through all of this youth work, Danny literally enthused and influenced hundreds of Jewish people through sheer energy and belief. His love of Judaism and love of the Land of Israel inevitably affected anyone who met him. Danny radiated pure energy and had the stamina to continually think of the wider community.
Danny knew how to made those from other walks of life feel comfortable, but at the same time, he continually upheld his ideals and never apologized for being who he was. He never judged people, everyone was worthy of being his friend. He had that certain knack of always making the lonely feel included. Danny was an active role model and leader. He inspired others into action and active participation.
It is odd that when people speak about Danny, there are tears but more often than not, there is also a smile. He had a contagious optimism and unbridled enthusiasm that inevitably rubbed off on all who were with him. He was a good person, genuinely good. Not perfect, but he did strive for perfection. Danny lived out his dreams of Aliyah, Yishuv and family. Danny did what we all set out to do. He remained a dreamer and pure idealist in a world where dreams are compromised by life's reality and ideals are lost to time and insincerity...
Eretz Yisrael. Living the dream.
(*written by Michael Zucker)