Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yom HaZikaron and Road Safety

This is a copy of my blog entry for I felt it was worth sharing here as well. Have a look at their website for a lot of excellent stuff about Judaism and Torah.

We are in between Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron (actually today should be Yom HaZikaron according to the calendar, but it was pushed off by one day to avoid chilul Shabbat – these Israelis think of everything! I’ll be in America or Britain they would have also made it tomorrow, but they would have called it a public holiday and had a 3 day weekend). These are both days on which we commemorate tragedies, both personal and national. The juxtaposition between the two days is almost certainly not accidental, but was designed by the ‘powers that be’ to contrast pre-State of Israel when the Jews were defenseless and murdered by the million and the State of Israeli whose army defends Jews. I’m not sure I agree with linking the holocaust and the State of Israel – it almost seems like a justification of the holocaust, or a form of ‘told you so’ from the Zionist enterprise.
But it does give me the opportunity to think about Israel, and those who have died in its defense. According to the Jerusalem Post 22,305 men and women have died defending Israel since 1860. In the past year 233 soldiers died. That is a huge number, and to think of all those families having to cope with the tragedy and continue with their lives is more than I can deal with. They all died al Kiddush Hashem, and we can only pray for them that their souls should be bound in the souls of eternal life.
According to the Jerusalem Post, last week Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi laid a flag on the grave of the last soldier to have died in the line of duty. - St.-Sgt. Matan Baskind. The sad thing is that I searched the web and couldn’t find any information about him, or even any report of his death.
I don’t wish to take anything away from the mourning of Yom Hazikaron, but I am so bothered by the next few words of the article. The even sadder thing is that the Jerusalem Post tells us that he was killed in a car accident two weeks ago! Israel has one of the highest rates of road fatalities of any country.
In 2006 there were 446 fatalities on the roads. That is almost twice as many as the number of soldiers who fell in battle in that year! And that was the lowest number for 40 years! That is truly something to mourn about. I don’t know how long it will be before we need a national memorial day for those who fell on the roads of Israel.
Of course everyone blames everything, it is nobodies fault, and nothing can be done to prevent it etc. I am not coming to write about lessons in road safety, or to criticise. In fact what I really wanted to say was a big ‘thank you’ to someone who I don’t know, and only spoke to once for a few minutes.
In general I try very hard to never cross the road against the traffic lights. I wait for the green man even when the road is deserted (who knows whether there may be a child watching who will think it is OK to cross against the lights – apart from the fact that it is illegal). Even though it bothers me every time that the lights are biased against pedestrians. At some intersections it takes two complete cycles of light changes to get across the road (you get to half way and have to wait again to get the rest of the way across).
So last week I was crossing the road, and there were two sets of lights (one for each half of the road). They both turned green, so I crossed. As I reached half way the light for that side of the road turned red. Since the cars were still stopped, and I had only missed it by a fraction of a second I continued across the road (if you weren’t paying close attention you would think I started crossing while it was still green).
When I reached the other side an elderly gentleman started berating me for crossing against the lights! And like a fool, instead of thanking him for caring, and for doing his bit to curb the death toll, I started explaining that it was really OK, and the light was basically green, and the cars were stopped, and it wasn’t dangerous (all true, but irrelevant). I wanted to take the chance now, since I’m not sure I’ll even see this man again, to thank him. Thank you for caring about my life and the lives of all the others on the road. Thank you for bothering to speak to me about it. Thank you for speaking up for what is right, even though nobody else wants to hear what you have to say.
May we all learn from his care and concern, and use extra caution on the roads. May this year be the last year that soldiers die in battle defending Israel. And may it be the end of road fatalities. Let us all care about ourselves and each other.
May all the families of those who died in Israel’s wars and all those who died on the roads be comforted amongst the other mourners for Zion and Jerusalem.

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