A Memorial Day Lesson for Americans, from Israel and Abraham Lincoln

The battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3, 1863; a few days later, Lincoln would note the proximity of this date to Independence Day in remarks, perhaps inspired by the sermon of a prominent rabbi, that presaged the famous opening of his address at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery that November. Parallel to the coincidence of these two dates is the Israeli practice of holding memorial ceremonies for those who gave their lives in its wars on the day before its own Independence Day. Meir Soloveichik remarks:

[T]he Gettysburg Address . . . joins mourning for the fallen with a recognition of American independence, allowing those who had died to define our appreciation for the day that our “forefathers brought forth a new nation conceived in liberty.” Lincoln’s words stressed that a nation must always link civic celebration of its independence with the lives given on its behalf. Visiting the cemetery at Gettysburg, he argued, requires us to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work that “they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” He went on: “From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion,” thereby ensuring that “these dead shall not have died in vain.” . . .

The American version of Memorial Day, like the Gettysburg Address itself, began as a means of decorating and honoring the graves of Civil War dead. It is unconnected to the Fourth of July, which takes place five weeks later. Both holidays are observed by many (though not all) Americans as escapes from work, and too few ponder the link between the sacrifice of American dead and the freedom that we, the living, enjoy. There is thus no denying that the Israelis’ insistence on linking their Independence Day celebration with their Memorial Day is not only more appropriate, it is more American, a truer fulfillment of Lincoln’s message at Gettysburg.

In studying the Hebrew calendar of 1776, I was struck by the fact that the original Fourth of July, like that of 1863, fell on the 17th of Tammuz, [a fast day commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians]. It is, perhaps, another reminder that Gettysburg and America’s birth must always be joined in our minds, and linked in our civic observance.

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More about: Abraham Lincoln, American founding, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Memorial Day, Yom Ha-Zikaron

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank