Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Yizkor" In The IDF

Joseph Trumpeldor's Monument (also Known as &q...Image via WikipediaHa'aretz (Hebrew) broke the story this morning on a change of the liturgy in memorial services for fallen soldiers by the IDF. The change is minor but full of meaning - the Yizkor memorial text will begin with the words “May G-d remember His sons and daughters,” instead of the words “The Nation of Israel will remember its sons and daughters.” 

However anyone who reads the Ha'aretz story, might miss an important fact. The text was actually changed in 1967.  The original prayer of Yizkor was based on the text written by Berel Katznelson for those who fell at Tel Chai (Trumpeldor in particular). Being non religous he naturally wrote "The Nation of Israel" and not "God". In 1967 Rabbi Goren, Chief rabbi of the IDF changed the text of the service to "God" - similar to the text read on Yom Kippur. So why is Ha'aretz suddenly digging up a 40 year old fight? The simple answer is that despite Harav Goren changing the official text, the army never fully changed the words it used in the service. For 40 odd years you could more or less hear either text based on who was giving the service. In the last few years as the older soldiers who were conducting the official memorial services retired, the new conductors all started using the official text. Hence the sudden interest.

Memorial services are always tricky.From their very nature emotions run high. It is hard to believe that you can find a text that would make everyone happy. This is espically true of Israel with its myriad of beliefs. Another factor is the changing face of the Army. The old guard used to be secular Kibbutzics. Today the religious community has taken the leading role of combat duty. Those old soldiers are looking at the younger ones, and are feeling that "their army" has been stolen from them. As such any change towards religion is going to be sensitive. 
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