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22,993 Heroes

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Ask any Israeli on the street -- either in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Haifa, the North, South, East or West -- and they will have known a person who was either killed as a soldier serving his country or in a terrorist attack. This week in Israel, Remembrance Day is observed. Since Israel was born, 22,993 soldiers were killed in the line of duty. This number hurts, especially for a country that turns only 64 this week. Just this year, 126 soldiers gave their life for their country. This is why Remembrance Day in Israel is a day of pain, sadness and affliction.

Israel's Remembrance Day for its fallen soldiers and victims of terror is different from usual memorial days. It is not a holiday. No vacations, leisure and long weekends. It is a quiet day, and you can walk on the street and know it is sorrowful. At eight in the evening and 11 the following morning, there is a two-minute long siren that is heard all over Israel, at which point all Israelis leave what they do, bow their heads and have a moment, commemorating soldiers and victims.

This time of the year is emotional and important for Israel. Last week, Israel recognized Holocaust Remembrance Day, mourning the six million jews who were slaughtered in the Holocaust. This week, Israel observes what is called 'Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.' Israel also celebrates Independence Day, a holiday, which is a very happy and joyous day for all Israelis. The close proximity of Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day show that after the Holocaust in 1948, Israel declared independence so that there could be a safe homeland for all Jews, and so that a second Holocaust could not happen. This is why we say, "From Holocaust to Revival."

The decision to observe Remembrance Day right before Independence Day is based on the saying, "In their death, they have commanded unto as life." This saying illustrates the vast appreciation for all of those who sacrificed their lives to defend their country, and expresses the tight link between life and death. The Israeli fallen soldiers are those who, through death, granted others life and the opportunity to continue to live in our country.

Another interpretation for the expression is that the fallen soldiers, through their death, left us some sort of will and testament, telling us to continue forward, living and rejoicing, and not to drown in sad memories and in the pain of bereavement. This interpretation suggests that we must move forward -- we must continue living and having hope for a better future.

In in 64 years, Israel was not only was born into war, but has fought seven difficult wars. Every of the seven wars was a existential threat, meaning that Israel's survival was fought for. Israel also commemorates the victims of brutal terrorist attacks. These attacks have tried to hurt Israel's sturdiness by murdering innocent Israelis just for being Israeli. In Israel, we still breath today freely and live our lives because of those brave soldiers, and Israel will keep living, knowing that every single day, there are brave soldiers protecting us. Israel prays that one day, there will be no need for an army, a day when we will live in peace and live freely in our country without waking up in the morning, worrying that a war may break out or a suicide bomber might bomb a bus or restaurant filled with people. Israel never forgets the people who sacrificed their lives for their country, and that's why Israel celebrates Independence Day and Remembrance Day -- so that every Israeli knows that what we have was not just given on a silver platter. Blood made Israel exist, and hope will keep it living.