From Commemoration to Celebration
The uniqueness and in a way, also the beauty, of Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut) is that it doesn’t stand on its own. Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror (Yom Hazikaron) serve as the buildup, the background. These two days prior to the Israel Independence celebrations are the moral, historical and profound reasons for, and roots to, our land.
Yom Hazikaron reminds us of the price we have paid and, as a result, the responsibility and duty we have toward our country, to build it and take care of it, thereby giving our lives special meaning.
Many years ago, before my family was bereaved, I thought the fact that Memorial Day and Independence Day followed each other was outrageous and insensitive toward all the bereaved families who would not celebrate a few hours after Memorial Day was over.
Unfortunately, I can say from personal experience that the first years after we lost my father in the terror attack on Nov. 28, 2002, were tough to celebrate in any way. But as time went by and I had little kids to take to the celebrations, I understood how powerful it is to celebrate Independence Day immediately after Memorial Day. At least it gave our loss meaning — with his death, he gave us life and a legacy to fulfill.
Israeli Culture: Photo Exhibition
“From Memorial to Independence” by Gil Cohen-Magen
The exhibition “From Memorial to Independence” will be on display at the Tucson Jewish Community Center May 2-15. With 30 photos from the past decade, it opens up for debate and discussion the feelings that Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day awaken in all of us as Jews. What is the personal experience each one of us goes through when facing the collective memories? The photos convey the pain that Israel experiences following the loss of its soldiers and civilians, but at the same time also incorporate the feeling of joy and hope surrounding Independence Day.
Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, starts with a siren at 8 p.m., which is heard all over the country. For one minute, everyone stands still to commemorate the fallen. The official ceremony takes place at the Western Wall and the flag of Israel is lowered to half-staff. The next morning, a two-minute siren is sounded at 11 a.m., marking the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private gatherings at cemeteries. When night falls, a transition from sad to happy occurs with the beginning of Independence Day.
In Israel, where viewing each other as family is one of the defining features of “Israeliness,” we do not primarily honor the dead; we mourn them. It is not “the fallen” or “the dead” as an abstract concept that applies to someone we do not know. Every family, every citizen has a direct connection to someone who has been killed. We remember the people whose presence we miss. We go to graves and see the fallen soldiers’ friends get older year by year, developing pot bellies and receding hairlines, while our beloved one remains forever locked in his youthful existence — an existence we can no longer experience.
The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence — the very existence of the state — to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it. In remembering our fallen, the country mourns the price we have had to pay to build our state.
Tucson-Israel People to People connections
Congregation Or Chadash religious school students from Tucson and students from the Harel School in Kiryat Malachi are demonstrating the power of our Partnership2Gether program. After planting trees for Tu B’Shevat both in Israel and here in Tucson, and hanging wishes from both sides on the trees, the students who are getting to know their overseas peers/friends decided to create a unique, mutual Haggadah. The students from both sides of the ocean drew and designed the Haggadah and shared it with their counterparts. I am excited to see what their next step will be.
Meet the Shlicha
I invite you to meet with me every Wednesday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, to discuss Israel, plan a trip or practice your Hebrew.
Don’t miss our second Weintraub Israel Center newsletter in this issue, which includes all the Tucson Celebrates Israel events! And, find us on Facebook.
Oshrat Barel is Tucson’s community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.