Yom HaZikaron event to feature 10/7 tie to Lehigh Valley community

By Carl Zebrowski

“Walking around Kibbutz Holit more than 100 days after the murderous terrorist attack on October 7, you can still see evidence of lives that were suddenly cut short,” reads a draft of the presentation Lee Kestecher Solomon was preparing for the Yom HaZikaron ceremony to be held in the JCC Kline Auditorium on Monday, May 13. “Blooming wild gardens, books waiting for readers next to their beds, and an endless silence creeping between the houses, whose walls are pierced by bullet marks.”

The ceremony for Israel’s Memorial Day will feature the stories of victims of the Hamas massacre, as well as stories of fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers and victims of other acts of terrorism. Solomon, director of community engagement for the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley and organizer of the remembrance event, lived in Kibbutz Holit, near the Gaza border, some years ago, and she knew some of the Israelis killed by Hamas terrorists.

One of those was Hayim Katsman, a 32-year-old who had just earned a doctorate from the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies in 2021. His particular interest was the intersection of religions in Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

Hamas killed Katsman when he was trying to help a neighbor during the attack. In a troubling instance of dark irony, Katsman was the guy friends knew as dedicated to the ideal of Israelis and Palestinians living together in harmony. He often volunteered to help either who needed it. “He would drive Gazans from Gaza into Israel for doctors’ appointments,” Solomon said.

There will be many prayers said during the event. Songs will be sung, including a video duo with a young Israeli paramedic who was killed on October 7 and the popular Israeli band Knesiayat HaSechel. The paramedic recorded herself singing the Israeli song “Nothing Will Hurt Me,” written for victims of a 1990s attack, and the band put her video together with their own version of the song in a new video after she was gone.

Solomon’s husband, Ariel, director of Hebrew and Judaics at the Jewish Day School, will tell the story of Katsman. Eric Lightman, executive director of the JCC, will share his experiences from and thoughts about his trip to Israel in February. Seventh-grader Alexis Gabay-Ratner will sing.

The ceremony is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to wear a white shirt to show our unity as a community. Registration is required. Visit jewishlehighvalley.regfox.com/yom-hazikaron-2024.