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Independence: From mourning to hope

This year, as Israel marks 76 years of independence, what would normally be a festive occasion every other year is a somber occasion, clouded by great pain. This year, alongside our great appreciation of our renewed independence in our homeland, we contemplate the profound devastation we experienced as a nation and mourn the loss of over 1,200 new victims of terror that were added overnight on Oct. 7. How can we celebrate our nation’s freedom when 132 of our brothers and sisters are still held in captivity? How do we rejoice in our independence when friends and family have yet to return from the battlefield?

The proximity of Memorial Day and Independence Day, two significant days in the Israeli calendar intentionally placed back-to-back, has always sparked debate – how can we transition so quickly from such sadness to celebration? These two days, with their vastly differing characters, are fused together by the blood of our soldiers and of the terror victims who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.

Unfortunately, this year, as the country-wide commemoration siren brings the entire state to a standstill in silent homage, we will focus on the ongoing events. The attacks from Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Houthis united our nation once again, one people bound by our resilience in the face of a horrific terror attack.

This year, our reverence for Memorial Day is cloaked in fresh sorrow and our appreciation of our freedom in our own country is deeper than ever.

But amidst the pain, we have a lot to be proud of. As a nation we have displayed great solidarity, courage and comraderie spanning all of Israel’s citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity, political opinion or social differences.

As the horrific Hamas attack was unfolding in southern Israel, simultaneously accompanied by hundreds of rocket barrages launched indiscriminately at targets throughout the country, civilians unflinchingly drove into the flames, not away from them, to save as many lives as possible.

One of these civilians is Camille Jesalva, a Filipino caregiver in Kibbutz Nirim. She saved her life and that of her 95-year-old employer Nitza Hefetz by giving her