On Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel, members of the our youth movement handed out flowers to family members of those who came to pay their respects to loved ones who fell in defense of Israel.
Our youth movement has been running the "Flowers for the Fallen" campaign for 34 years. This year, more than three thousands young participants – Jews, Druze and Bedouin – stationed themselves at more than a hundred cemeteries throughout Israel to hand out flowers to the grieving families.
Three decades ago, an exposé in the Israeli media revealed that flower retailers were exploiting the opportunity presented by Yom HaZikaron by inflating the prices of bouquets that they sold to grieving families. As soon as this story became known, our youth movement decided to embark on a nation-wide campaign together with the Department of Families and Remembrance in the Ministry of Defense to distribute free flowers to every mourning family.
This year, the Akko branch of the campaign involved a group of sixteen ninth-graders who were overseen by two eighteen year-olds.
The ninth-graders rose early and after a thorough briefing made their way to the cemetery. They then greeted with flowers the families who came to pay respects to their fallen loved ones. Here are some of their responses to the experience:
“It was really moving to see how the families responded. The understanding that on a day like this, by coming here and handing them flowers, it’s like saying ‘you are not alone.’”Adi Oved.
“I joined the campaign after sitting in a program at the youth center about the significance of Yom HaZikaron in our society and to the Jewish people. Memory means looking at history and saying that I am connected to it and it has some impact on my life. So we decided to say that the memory of those who fell belongs not just to the families mourning their loved ones but to the whole society, and that it is our duty to make sure that the families know that they are not alone and that we are with them. When our counselors told us that there are people who exploit the families’ pain to make a profit, we immediately felt a sense of duty to take part in the campaign.” Michael Gurevich.
“I wanted to do something good on Yom HaZikaron for the grieving families. And I wanted to feel like I’m doing something important on that day for my society. We waste so much of our lives watching TV, sleeping, being on our phones, that when I handed out flowers to the families, I felt like I’m doing something important and meaningful, something that makes me feel more alive.” Racheli Ifergan.
Yaniv, the coordinator of the youth center that ran the campaign in Akko, said: “We come here every year and we will keep coming back every year. As a Zionist movement, it’s our duty to make sure that remembering our fallen does not become a private matter for the families to face alone. This campaign is our way to tell the families that they aren’t alone, that their loss is our loss, and that their pain is our pain. It’s a small but powerful gesture, and we will keep bringing our members back to make the same gesture here every year.”
The campaign in Akko lasted three hours and distributed hundreds of bouquets to families.