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

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror