Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unity

We've all seen the photos of stopped traffic as the sirens wail here in Israel. This morning I realized that the pictures don't really do it justice. Usually I'm alone at work at 11am. And last night, we were ready for the siren, waiting attentively at a Yom Hazikaron program in the yishuv.
But this morning, somehow, even though I knew the siren was coming, it caught me by surprise.
I was sitting at a second-floor balcony at the bank - which was quite busy this morning, when the siren sounded at precisely 11:00am. Everything just stopped. Everyone stood up, and we all bowed our heads, left to our thoughts, prayers and emotions. I actually found the shift from movement and activity to frozen silence jarring. Think about it: have you ever seen a group of people, simply standing silently at attention, not moving, not speaking? Everything just stopped, and I marveled at the quietness; the stillness of the busy bank as the siren blared outside.
As we all stood in silence. I looked down at the scene below. I saw a group of Ethiopians; two elderly chareidim, who had been meeting with a bank official at one of the desks: young Sabras and immigrants of all stripes and ages.
Over the week between Yom Hashoah and Yom Haatzmaut, for two minutes, the entire country really does stand still. Standing at the bank, I felt a sense of oneness with all of these people who I don't know; a sense of shared sacrifice and a feeling of the shared burden that we all appreciate. And I thought of the families of those who we remember on this day.
Why do we unite only for sadness? Why is it so difficult to stand together on other days of the year? Who knows.
But these silent moments give me strength. Because as much as we argue, they remind us all that if we ever need it, we will stand together as one.