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04/29/2020 04:09:16 PM


Miriam Bradman Abrahams

From Sadness to Joy

I spent a good part of yesterday and today watching tekasim ceremonies for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut via Zoom, Facebook and Youtube. Although I’ve visited Israel many times and even lived there for 5 months, I've never been in the land for these days.  I was never there to witness the end of the sad emotional day remembering Israel's fallen soldiers – and then transition to Independence Day, with that shocking switch from sorrow to joy. 

I watched the Israeli flag raised from half-mast to full glory in the presentation on Mt. Herzl. Usually a packed event; this time live streamed for viewing anywhere. The audience at home or at work in self-isolation. Once again allowing us to appreciate the amazing technology at our disposal in these bizarre times.

Ever since my daughter became a Lone Soldier three years ago, I have been an active member of a private Facebook group for moms of chayalim bodedim. The group is diverse; with mothers of varying religious affiliation and observance, living all over the world including the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, South Africa, and Australia. A few of the moms, including Harriet Levin, have tragically lost their beloved children during IDF service. 

The Lone Soldier center in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is named for Harriet's son, Michael Levin. She and her husband often speak about their son's service and their connection to Israel. They and other families unfortunately could not visit their loved ones' resting place on Har Herzl this year due to the coronavirus restrictions. Instead they spoke about them online and shared their eternal grief. 

(Speaking about chayalim bodedim, I'd like to recommend a book written by Jonathan Sidlow, a YINW member.  It is called What Was Once A Dream: An American Volunteer's Service as an Israeli Paratrooper. Jonathan's memoir recounts his time as a combat soldier and it is quite an incredible story.)

Continuing to watch the Yom HaZikaron programming, I was surprised to see former Lawrence resident, Norman Blaustein, eulogize his wife; my friend, Sara Blaustein, of blessed memory. I had forgotten that Yom HaZikaron honors victims of terror as well as fallen soldiers. 

Sara was a very special woman who was a fellow member of my shul, Congregation Beth Sholom. Our lives were intertwined. Her youngest daughter was in my son's class at HAFTR, her oldest daughter was my next door neighbor, and her granddaughter was in my daughter's nursery school class. We shared some holidays together at her home. I remember a collection of unique menorahs hung on her wall. She gifted my son a beautiful menorah from Israel for his bar mitzvah. Her connection to Israel was so strong that she made her dream of aliyah come true. She, her husband, and youngest daughter moved to Efrat in the summer of 2000. She reveled in her new life and hoped her other children would follow her there soon. She enjoyed visiting Kever Rachel once a week, attended many shiurim, and gave out candy to soldiers at check points.

Sara and another passenger in the car were murdered on the road between Efrat and Jerusalem on May 29, 2001- the day following Shavuot (Hashem Yikom Dama). Three of her four children now live in Israel.  I watched a heartbreaking yet uplifting video of those siblings remembering their mother yesterday. 

As I watched the next recording, my mood changed, as it is meant to when evening closes in on Yom HaZikaron. Watching the flag rise up, my attention turned to the twelve fires that were lit, each one by an honoree on this 72nd Yom HaAtzmaut. The first was by singer, songwriter, and producer Idan Raichel. This was followed by an amazing doctor, two nurses, and a paramedic for Magen David Adom. One by one the candles were lit. Each by accomplished, giving people. The presentations were inspiring and heartwarming.


May our fallen soldiers' and terror victims' memories be for a blessing. May our current and future soldiers never have to fight again. And may we all celebrate the 73rd I together in Israel (or right here at NYC's Salute to Israel Parade). 


By: Miriam Bradman Abrahams

Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784