I was in the middle of typing a sentence when the siren went off. I looked up. Everybody in the office was standing. The siren sounded for a minute. Then silence. Twenty-four hours of memorial ahead for Israel's fallen soldiers, a day not for barbeques or parties (that comes tomorrow night, independence day), but for ceremonies and sirens and crying and remembering. There's not a family in Israel that hasn't had a close relative or friend die in the line of duty. This country is small and conscription is mandatory - whether or not we agree with its policies, the IDF is an inseparable part of Israel, its beating heart.
My roommate, whose brother was killed nine years ago in a helicopter crash over Lebanon, told me that he doesn't buy into a day of memorial. He said there were only two days a year that his family got together, memorial day and the anniversary of his brother's death, but still, he couldn't get into it. He said those who remember will remember every day, and those who need a special day to remember need more than just that.
Ceremonies are being held now in every city and town across the country. Another siren will sound tomorrow morning for two minutes. Everybody will stand, everybody will remember. The best music is being played on the radio. Pictures and images and stories of kids who died as soldiers are flashing across TV screens and across projector screens at ceremonies where families sit and cry, cry for their sons, their daughters, their neighbors' sons, their neighbors' daughters, for the concept of Israel and the concept of national unity and the concept of youth and the concept of defense and the concept of war.