D’var Israel

Yom HaZikaron is a special day that commemorates all the fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror. However, if you’ve lost anyone then you know that we don’t need a special day to remember them — we mourn all year long.

Whenever I speak about my feelings on Yom HaZikaron and get asked if I experienced any loss in my family, my answer is always “yes”. I have lost 28,843 family members so far, but it’s not just my loss — all Israelis mourn our heroic brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives so that we could live safely. 

Losing someone to war or terrorism is traumatic and has an effect on our daily life, every success, every ambition, and every decision. You never know when or where it can happen; at the mall you just shopped at this morning, the restaurant you went to yesterday or at the bus stop you go to everyday. You don’t know whether it’s a classmate, work colleague, neighbour or friend. We will forever remember them all.

I’d like to share with you the story of Ronen Lubarski z”l.

Born in 1998, Ronen was a happy and smiling child. He was responsible, stubborn, opinionated, and a creative kid who loved arts and crafts. His parents described him as a boy who was neat and organized, honest, professional and committed to his goals, yet considerate of others and always cared for other people.

An athlete from an early age, Ronen’s persistence in various sports brought him many successes and achievements. He learned how to swim when he was just 3 years old, participated in “Osho” martial arts and won tennis championships, but retired early because he felt he could do other things better.

At the age of 16, he joined a combat fitness training group for the army, as part of the club founded by Yoav Asa, “Asa oti lohem” (make me a combat soldier). His dream was to serve in the “Duvdevan” commando unit, the symbol of which he drew and hung in his room when he joined the training group. He also wrote to himself Arnold Schwarzenegger’s motto, “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets”.

In 2016, Ronen enlisted in the IDF and was placed in the “Duvdevan” commando unit that he wanted so much. He began a demanding and challenging course that lasted 14 months. He was the first in the unit to perform the tasks without complaining, despite the difficulties and lack of sleep. His high level of responsibility, independence and sensitivity to the environment made him stand out. Although he didn’t talk much, Ronen always radiated calmness and confidence. 

In May 2018, Ronen participated in an operation to arrest a group of terrorists in Ramallah.  When he came out of one of the buildings with two of his commanders, a large rock was thrown at him. He was mortally wounded and rushed to the hospital in Jerusalem. After two days of fighting for his life, the doctors pronounced him dead.

Ronen was 20 years old when he died in the operational activity. He left behind his parents and a brother. 

Every year in May, trainees of the combat training group “Asa oti lohem” from all over the country go to Rehovot, Ronen’s hometown, and run together with the “Duvdevan” commando unit in a race called “Me’rotz Le’oro”, which was established to commemorate Ronen. It is a huge event where everyone runs from Rehovot to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem together, remembering and honouring Ronen.

May his memory be a blessing for us all.

In four months, I’m going to enlist in the Israeli army, and start our service like every other Israeli citizen my age. I will join my friends from Israel who are already serving, who risk their lives every day for the safety of our families and the State of Israel.

There is one sentence that now takes on a greater meaning, “Love is just as strong as death”.

In Israel, it’s impossible to discuss Yom HaZikaron without mentioning Yom Ha’atzmaut. The decision to connect the two days, regardless of your opinion of it, has an incredibly powerful and meaningful impact. Just as we are remember those who died for our country, we are reminded of everything they sacrificed themselves for.

In this transition from sadness and grief to joy and celebration, I remind myself to enjoy every moment, and to not take anything that I have for granted. My community, my family, my country — they’re all precious and can be lost so quickly. That’s what makes them so worth celebrating.

When I really think about it, it’s hard to believe that Israel is only 75 years old. During its short life, it has produced endless inventions, Eurovision winners, Olympic athletes, astronauts, authors, people of peace and of huge importance on the world stage.

It’s been through so much, evolved and changed over and over again, it defined and redefined itself as a startup nation, a democracy, a warrior, a protector of the Jewish people, and most importantly, a home to all who live in it. In my months here, I realize even more that Israel really is my home, forever and always.

I am so proud of my country and all that it has achieved in its busy and meaningful life. Being here with all of you and seeing the love you have for Israel moves me and motivates me to keep sharing my love and pride for my country. Am Israel Chai.

Happy Birthday Israel, and here’s to another 75!