Sunday is Israel's Memorial Day. As a young country born of and in many ways still of war, Memorial Day is taken VERY seriously here. It is a day of ceremonies, of quiet reflection, of soft, sad music on the radio (yes, there is an entire genre like that). Memorial Day, as all Jewish holidays, actually starts at sundown the evening before. The solemnity of the day begins with a 2 minute siren all across the country. While the siren is going everything comes to a standstill - cars on the highway come to a halt while their drivers stand silently by, remembering, thinking. Shoppers in stores stand still, listening. All over the country you see people standing quietly and remembering the ultimate sacrifice made by so many to give us the country we have today. At 10 o'clock the following morning the sirens wail again, and again, everything stops. The different branches of the army and the police hold memorial services for their fallen, other ceremonies remember those lost to terrorism. All places of entertainment are closed.
As the day progresses and darkness falls, Israel moves from grief to celebration. The conclusion of Memorial Day moves straight into the celebration of Independence Day, which begins at 8pm that evening. How wise were the founders of this country, to inextricably link these two days, so that it is impossible to rejoice in what we have without reflecting on how we got here.
To mark Israeli Memorial Day with my own futile but fervent wish that these sacrifices should end, that we should "study war no more", I offer you 13 anti-war songs. These songs come from different countries and different wars and convey their message in vastly different ways, but wherever it strikes the tragedy of war is the same. I hope that you will choose to listen and take a moment to reflect on their message, and to imagine the shape of a world without war.
1. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues
2. Christmas in the Trenches - John McCutcheon
3. Through the Night - Ray Scudero - (You may have to pick "Through the Night" to see the actual lyrics, but they are well worth the extra click. To hear a clip, listen to Track 15
4. I Ain't Marchin' Anymore - Phil Ochs
5. The Patriot Game - The Dubliners
6. No Bomb is Smart - SONiA (listen to Track 6)
7. There Were Roses - Tommy Sands - a hauntingly beautiful song about a true event. I had the privilege of seeing him in concert several times last spring. When I told him that as many times as I heard the song it made me cry every single time, he shared with me that the men in the song had been friends of his, and that it had taken him 10 years to be able to put words to their story.
8. Draft Dodger Rag - Phil Ochs
9. Eve of Destruction - Barry McGuire
10. The Grave - Don McLean - another powerfully haunting song
11. The I Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag - Country Joe and the Fish
12. Kill For Peace - Oscar Brand (sorry, couldn't find a link for this one)
13. Peace Will Come - Tom Paxton
And following in the spirit of Memorial Day, next week's list will move from sadness to joy, with 13 celebrations of life in Israel.
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