May 1, 2009

Yom Haatzmaut 2009

Tuesday April 28
Happy 61st Israel! We go from the sadness of a remembrance day for our fallen soldiers to the exuberance of Independence Day. In Ra'anana, people throng to Park Ra’anana in the tens of thousands. Three stages were set up in the park with non-stop entertainment. Vendors were selling flashing, glow-in-the-dark trinkets, and, of course, food. israelis eat at all hours of the day. Young couples were pushing strollers. No one here seems to use babysitters; parents choose to introduce their babies to the fun at a young age. And, of course, the preening teenage girls were there, acting as if it were their own personal coming out party.

We arrived around midnight and everyone we knew was there, with throngs of people just arriving, despite the late hour. The eenagers have some strange tradition of staying up the whole night so for them, the night was very young.

At one stage, a religious band was playing. Respecting the laws of modesty, girls and boys intuitively separated, dancing their own horas, clapping, singing along and stamping in unison. Young toddlers were propped up on their fathers’ shoulders, twirling in circles as the men danced and spun around. I even saw the mayor being swept into the fray and dancing a few horas!

On another stage, young girls performed flamenco dancing, swishing their black skirts with a flick of the wrist and a quick turn of the shoulder. Due to the thick crowds, I did not make it to the last stage but heard that Israeli superstar Idan Reichel was performing there.

I may be biased, but I felt that the real ruach was at the first stage. Here, people young and old, religious and non-religious, listened and moved to the music with heart and soul. This place represented the energy, spirit and achdut (unity) of Israel, whereas the other stages merely portrayed talent.

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