This morning Israel stood and saluted the security forces’ heroes and the victims of terror. Superheroes who stood at the war front, against bombing and fire, to protect their homeland. Warriors who will not get to build their lives with their families, will not add another brick to their homes, and who will not continue to embrace life. They will not be with us today, celebrating Israel’s 67th independence celebrations. The dark cloud that covers the sun will not disappear; it will keep on carrying the images of our fallen IDF soldiers. The soldiers that in their death commanded our people to be virtuous, bold, and to build a society seeking liberty and equality.
This morning Ofakim stood silent beside the graves of the city’s heroes who will remain as young and brave as they were the day they fell. Forever young. We miss them in the difficult and painful moments, the moments of solitude and grief, but mainly, we miss them during moments of joy, in celebrations of holidays and family events. We miss them especially now as we celebrate 60 years since Ofakim’s establishment.
In the 1950s, my parents, who were in their youth, made Aliya on an illegal immigrant ship after they were deported from Egypt. They fulfilled their dream of immigrating to Israel. They arrived in Ofakim, where they lived in tin shacks and huts. Ofakim was then at the beginning of its development. Its residents’ main income came from agriculture and the textile industry. Our parents, the pioneers, knew it would be a long road of building and creating a path to accomplishment. They are the pioneers that believed that their commitment and their inheritance to their sons would be the foundation of the city of Ofakim, which would empower and strengthen the State of Israel and its borders in the Negev. Today, at the age of 60, Ofakim is the city we have chosen to continue to live in and raise our children. Despite facing challenges of unemployment and war, we chose to stay and build up Ofakim.
According to the Jewish worldview, לא קיים דבר והיפוכו, כי אם שלם בהתגלמותו. The whole is composed of opposites: "and there was evening and there was morning, one day"; of Holocaust and revival; of Memorial Day and Independence Day; of death and life. Our faith and affinity to Israel and to Judaism has strengthened us throughout our history.
Therefore, the survival of the nation needed to encompass a vision, resourcefulness, resilience, faith, creation, construction, and social justice. Education, culture, sports, and the economy are the building blocks for a united society, committed to its community and country, committed to human beings regardless of race, religion, or gender, a society committed to its children’s peace and world peace as a whole.
The fate of the nation and of Ofakim is up to us. Remember, we are commanded to remember the past, to live for the present, and embroider hope for the future.
Ofakim is our heart. The Negev is our backbone. The State of Israel is the air we breathe. A sense of harmony, mutual responsibility, and a holistic approach are the keys to resilience, security, and independence.
Mazal Tov, Ofakim. Happy Independence Day.
Yahaloma Zechut, a resident of Ofakim and founder of the town's Resilience Center, will be reading the speech at the ceremony between Yom Hazikaron —the commemoration for Israel's fallen soldiers — and Yom Ha'atzmaut that will be held in Ofakim this Wednesday night.