Although I do spend a good portion of my weekdays studying at the Yeshiva, I have treasured the opportunities that I have to appreciate and interact with the society of Israel at large. One such opportunity took place yesterday afternoon when the entire Nativ group headed towards a JNF forest near Latrun to participate in the AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel)'s annual memorial service for North Americans who died in IDF service and from terrorism. While some people, including myself to an extent, came into it thinking it would be another boring ceremony, I came out of it deeply moved. Included in the program was a list of everyone inscribed on the memorial, including names I recognized such as Mickey Marcus (died in a friendly fire incident in 1948), Koby Mandell (murdered in 2001 when hiking near his house in Tekoa) , Marla Bennett and Ben Blutstein (Students killed in the Hebrew University bombing), Chezi Goldberg (a Torononian killed in 2004), Michael Levin (and Active USYer and Nativ graduate killed in Lebanon) and others, but I was shocked to see that these were only about 1% of the names, as there was also a long list of those whom I did not know about. While the ceremony was very somber, as it is hard emotionally to recall the stories of these beautiful and promising lives, it was an appropriate time to reflect during these Yamim Noraim, and provided some of the most emotional moments in Israel so far for me: To see representatives of the IDF, US, Canada and my friend Matan from Nativ lay wreaths in memory of these Olim who made the ultimate sacrifice; to hear their friends recite the prayers for Tzahal and The State of Israel; and finally, to join together in Hatikvah for the first time since arriving looking over a beautiful scape of the land.
Afterwards, keeping in mind that we are able to do so only because of others sacrifices, the entire Nativ program was taken to the Harel Mall in Mevasseret Tzion just outside Jerusalem to experience another specialty of Israel: Kosher KFC!