For those who have never attended a military commemoration, there are few things in life so moving as the lowering of flags, the crowd standing silent, the lone trumpet and the salute from those who served. It helps if it’s raining – you can blame wet eyes on the weather.
Horror can strike on the individual level, the family level, the community level, the national level or the international level.
Wars strikes on all, sometimes all at once.
Jews are not immune and have never shied from defending their country. The idea that British Jews fight first for Israel is neither fair nor accurate. A weekend in Andover in January, at the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women members’ annual get-together, blows that theory out of the water.
As important as it is to fight for your country, so too is it important to remember those who did, especially this year, 100 years since the guns finally fell silent on the First World War, from which hundreds of British Jews never came back. At 1.30pm this Sunday, old and young, Jewish and non-Jewish, fresh faces and familiar, will all gather at Horse Guards’ Parade in Whitehall to honour Jews who fell fighting for the sovereign.
It is an annual event, but it is likely to be even more moving this year given the centenary, and at a time of rising nationalism around the world.
For the first time there will be an educational event taking place beforehand, at 8 Northumberland Ave, a casual drop-in affair starting at 11am that promises to be two hours’ well-spent, hearing songs and stories from the war, with lots to do for youngsters too.
Theirs is a generation with far fewer personal links to the war than our own.
You cannot forget what you’ve never known, so it is important that they do know what happened and the role Jews played for king and country.
For those slightly older, perhaps in school considering their careers, there will be the chance to meet role models such as Major Danny Yank, who has fought for Britain for the past 14 years.
For everyone else, it is a chance to learn, reflect and commemorate those who took their Magen David into battle and gave their lives so you and I could enjoy the freedoms we do.
Whoever we are, whatever we think, we owe them our attendance.