The symbolic connection between Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terror and Independence Day, guides us, each year anew, to a deeper understanding of the difficult price (and for some members of our society, the hardest price of all) which we pay for our independence and our very existence here, as a free nation in our own homeland.
For me, Memorial Day – aside from being a sad day – is a day of self-examination, in which I ask myself: “Am I a good enough person? Am I – and are we, as a society – able to remember those who gave their lives, remember their families, and in complete honesty say that we are doing the best we can?
Why are we prepared to maintain an army, if not to ensure the best possible society, a society that honors its weakest members, that is sensitive to the other, and that respects the elderly and more. We are not fighting so that we can have a strong and secure army against our neighbors but rather to ensure a society that lives up to its ideals. As both a father and as the head of a pre-army mechina trying to teach commitment and responsibility, Memorial Day forces me to look beyond my personal interests to the larger Israeli society. And that is why I ask myself and my students each year if we are really doing enough.
I believe that we need a strong army and soldiers who are willing to defend us in order to protect Israel and the Jewish people. Otherwise, Israel as a state cannot survive. But if we ask our soldiers to pay the price for this independence, we must be sure that our leaders have the same commitment and devotion to achieve peace.
We cannot educate soldiers to be devoted to our country and its defense if we are not prepared to make every possible effort for the sake of peace. If we do not make a genuine effort to end war, our moral right to be at war will not stand forever. I am not speaking about how to bring peace, but rather about the effort and desire to bring it. We must be able to look in the mirror and say to ourselves that we are doing everything possible to bring about peace.
There are those who would say that I am naïve, that I am dreaming, and even, that this is “a dangerous approach”. And indeed, our reality makes it easier not to believe. In Israel, it seems at times that it is rational to believe in the coming of the messiah, the resurrection of the dead, horoscopes and reading coffee grounds. But to believe in peace? That’s crazy.
Yet a leader who does not try to bring peace (that is, an end to war), who does not turn over every stone, who does not believe in his ability to work hard and change reality, has no right to be our leader – not prime minister nor minister of defense nor president, nor any minister or regular member of Knesset. He or she has no moral right to say to our young people “go and fight”.
Michal Kasten Keidar, the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Dolev Keidar, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge, wrote: “As Memorial Day approaches, I ask of you, all of you, not to immerse yourselves in sad videos about our loved ones who are gone. Leave that to us. Don’t immerse yourselves in sadness, but fill yourselves with fear and awe and take responsibility for the future”.
I also ask that we remain clear about our responsibility. The responsibility to demand from ourselves and from our leaders the highest standard possible, to believe that we are obligated to create a more just and desirable society for everyone.
Happy Independence Day!
 This is a quote from Rav Kook which was later used in a song written by religious settlers during the disengagement from Gaza.