There is no real equivalent to the Hebrew word טקס Tekess in English. Of course there are the usual words like memorial, ceremony, commemoration, observance, and ritual. But as Tekess is much more than a word, it seems that none of English choices captures the formality, the festivity, the commitment, and the pathos, that make up this special Hebrew word. All those elements are present in the the two major טקסים Tkasim (plural for Tekess): Holocaust Memorial Day and Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers.
At my school in Haifa, Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers was the most moving and significant event of the year. Every year bereaved families joined our Service. For this occasion a graduate of the school came back especially to sing for us Bab el Wad (a famous song from Israel's war of Independence 1948 immortalizing one of the hard battles) in her beautiful and simple voice. That was how the ritual was conducted every year, northing changed, at least not for the six years that I attended school.
This memory is almost 50 year old and to this day hearing Bab el Wad still brings tears to my eyes.
Ever since that time I have tried to avoid going to Memorial Services, as nothing could ever match this poignant childhood memory. So this year again, I had no intention of going to any service.
We often hear about noble people who are ready to leave their family during a holiday in order to help others. There are those who volunteer to serve a meal in a communal Passover Seder instead of spending the holiday at home. This is how I view people who are willing to share their personal pain on Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers and attend an alternative joint Israeli/Palestinian Memorial Service (of the Parents Circle-Families Forum PCFF, an Israeli/Palestinian group of bereaved family members of those who died as a result of the conflict, and Combatants Of Peace). I admire them but find it difficult to do the same.,
But even I have my limits, when I heard that the bereaved Palestinian families were denied permission to attend that Memorial Service, which took place yesterday night in Tel Aviv, and that they assembled in Beit Jala to commemorate the dead, I knew that the right thing to do was to go there and express my solidarity, it was the least I could do.
Unlike the impressive Service in Tel Aviv, the gathering in Beit Jala was very simple. A group of people Palestinians and Israelis congregated in a small hall to talk and to watch together the main event in Tel Aviv. Several Palestinians and Israelis spoke about the pain and the suffering of bereaved families on both sides, and about the fact that we were partners.
Few days ago David Grossman said on the radio that bereaved families are not expert on the conflict, and that they don’t know more about it than other people, but they do deserve respect, Grossman used the word “tact.”
I feel that by going to Beit Jala on the Eve of Memorial Day For Fallen Soldiers I did just that, showed my respect.
This essay forst appeared in the Times of Israel