Had Wednesday's tragedy on Mount Herzl been defined as a national disaster, we could have cancelled the traditional Independence Day torch ceremony or moved it elsewhere. The public felt deep grief over the young female officer's death (as well as rage at those whose negligence caused the lighting bridge to collapse). Still, this painful incident is not reason enough to retreat from Mount Herzl, a site that symbolizes the inextricable bond between our national institution of Holocaust commemoration (Yad Vashem) and the bereavement over Israel's wars and joy for our independence. All of these emotions are concentrated on Mount Herzl.
Fatal accidents are an awful aspect of daily life. On Thursday, Eli Ben Shem, the chairman of Yad Lebanim (the bereaved families' association), related how he had cited the number of fallen Israeli soldiers in a radio interview, and by the time he got to his next interview, a soldier had collapsed during his Engineering Corps tryout. As soon as he walked through the door of another media outlet, the number went up again due to the death of the officer in Jerusalem.
If only Israel lived in peace, and a single person's tragedy were reason enough to cancel festivities. But this goes against the essence of what we mourn and what we wish to celebrate on the evening between Memorial Day and Independence Day, when we transition from bereavement to rejoicing over our sovereignty. It also goes against the essence of modern life.
Nothing is easier than to withdraw or retreat. The ceremony could take place in the Knesset plaza. The Givat Ram branch of the Hebrew University has a stunning campus. The Israel Museum has beckoning green lawns. We could hold the ceremony with dimmer lighting, less activity, color and sound. With a subdued parade and sad communal singing. It's easy to run away, saying, "We can't do it." But that's not true. Anyone who says, "I can't," actually means to say "I don't want to." I don't want to make an effort again. I don't want to rebuild. Mainly, I don't want to take responsibility.
Dr. Amir Perry, chairman of the Israeli Society of Safety Engineers, said on Thursday that there is still time to start from scratch and build a proper stage with safe lighting fixtures. Police will probe the alleged negligence by those who constructed the lighting bridge, while others rebuild the collapsed structure properly. The invited guests, tourists, VIPs, and high-ranking officers will all arrive and take their seats.
That is what persistence is about. That is what it means to strive for excellence.
Occasionally, something done not with the best of intentions ends up having a positive result. Although we lag behind, it is still possible to reach the summit. This is an important lesson for a society that must educate its young people toward responsibility and determination. Do not give up. We cannot let ourselves give up. As they say during the torch lighting ceremony, it is "for the glory of the State of Israel."