Yom Hazikaron looms large over Israel and me. We began yesterday 2 kilometers from the Syrian border listening to Nir Atir who, at that very spot, with three tanks and 27 fellow Israeli soldiers delayed dozens of Syrian tanks and hundreds of troops until reserve forces could arrive during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He told part of his story in the bunker where he and the other wounded survivors waited with the bodies of their dead comrades spent hours waiting to be captured or killed. Hearing his story while in that bunker touched each and every one of our souls.
Part of the story was of the soldier who volunteered to leave the bunker waiving his white tee shirt and lead the surrender to the Syrians. After he left the bunker, shots were fired and they assumed he was dead and the Syrians would kill them too rather than take them prisoner. After the Israeli reserves arrived and pushed back the Syrians, the wounded were taken to hospitals. A year later, Nir went to visit the parents of his friend who tried to surrender. After knocking on the door, his friend answered. He had been taken prisoner after all and survived. We were uplifted and our eyes brimming as we heard his tale.
From the Golan we drove to Tel Dan, one of the oldest cities excavated in Israel and now an incredible nature reserve. The city dates from the 8th Century B.C.E.. It was built on that spot because it was near the Dan River, part of the head waters of the Jordan River. It was at Tel Dan that the oldest mention of King David was discovered.
The fortifications of this 3000 year old city are amazing but pale in comparison to the power of the river itself. Watching the river flow, bringing life to the land served as the symbol of life we needed as Yom Hazikaron was approaching. Sitting by the water, our wonderful guide Frances read to us from Psalms connecting our deep past with our vibrant present.
From Tel Dan we headed toward Magdala to see the excavation of a Second Temple synagogue. A woman named Miriam is the most famous person from Magdala. Better known as Mary the Magdalen, this would have been the synagogue she attended.
Returning to Tzvat we visited the synagogue of Isaac Luria. Notice that every light fixture is dedicated to someone’s deceased relative. Donating lights to the synagogue morphed into the tradition of lighting a candle at home on a relative’s yahrzeit.
A “quick” walk through the shops of Tzvat brought us back to the hotel to prepare for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.