April 19, 2013

Happy 65th Israel!

Yom HaShoa.  Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yom Ha Zikaron l’Chayalim.  Memorial Day for the Soldiers
Yom Ha’Atzma’ut. Israel Independence Day

These three occasions fall within nine days, creating a time of solemnity, tears and wailing sirens that freeze an entire nation in its footsteps.

But what captured my heart was how people here deal with tragedy. They mourn deeply and always will. However, they take their loss and transform it into something large. They reach deep down and instead of being imprisoned in darkness and despair, they reach out and give, making the world a better place.

On Yom Hazikaron, I heard speeches, watched special TV programming and YouTube videos about heroic soldiers who fell in battle.  Many of these young soldiers gave their lives to save their peers. All were sons, and many brothers, boyfriends and husbands.

Close family members felt deep, dark gashes of loss, yet they somehow managed to create light from their darkness. Although something dear was taken from them, they gave back. One father made a community fitness park in memory of his son who loved to exercise; another built Habayit shelBenji, a large home that today houses 48 lone soldiers. Others built beautiful public gardens. A family who lost a young son to terror formed the Koby MandellFoundation in his name so children whose lives have been wrenched by terror can feel happiness and support at a fun summer camp.

We attended special Yom Ha’atzmau’ut services at our synagogue, hearing valiant words from a former soldier who fought in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And as the sun set, the day transformed from sadness to festivity.

We sang Hallel, prayers of praise that are usually heard on the joyous holidays of during Sukkot, Pesach and Rosh Chodesh.

And then we heard a shofar.

Everyone was silent as it pierced the air, vibrating our very core. It is because of our brave soldiers that we are here, so we celebrate in their merit.  The shofar that was trumpeted when we lived in this land over 2,000 years ago is alive again. Its sound is loud, pure, triumphant. The shofar urges us to step inside and connect with our souls so that we can experience joy on a deep level. 

This is not the New Year of abroad with its feasting and drinking and personal resolutions; this is a communal gratitude that we are here again, strong and united. We sang Ha Tikvah, Israel’s national anthem and wished each other ‘chag sameach.’
Ever the local Burgers Bar gets festive!

Within minutes, our introspection was transformed into effusive joy. Young and old headed to the parks to sing and dance; fireworks boomed, concerts blasted and all-night parties (if you are young enough to stay up), well, they went all night.  

If this is our version of December 31 (which is not really celebrated here at all), may our national resolution be that we continue to be strong. No matter what.

Happy 65th birthday Israel (and a happy 18th birthday to my daughter!)

Here is a video that celebrates sixty-five years

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