Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut at Kehillah
Yesterday was Yom HazZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Israel Club led our school in a sad but important tekes (ceremony) filled with poetry, song and reflections. As students shared in our school’s tekes (ceremony),
Yom Hazikaron commences countrywide with the sound of a siren, צפירה, proclaiming a two minute silence. When the siren is heard, all activity and traffic cease. Everyone stops what they are doing, whether they are driving, working, or watching TV. The entire country pauses and takes those two minutes to remember the fallen soldiers, terror victims, and loved ones…Yom Hazikaron in Israel is such an important day because the IDF is a vital source of safety for the country and its people. Each Israeli citizen serves in the army and knows someone who has died serving the country.
One of our seniors shared reflections on their connections to the IDF, Israeli Defence Forces.
I know it’s cliche: there is no place like Israel. But I remember breathing in the crisp, light air on Har Ben-Tal in the Golan Heights at 13, during my eighth grade trip to Israel—my first time in the country. My class had finished walking through a former IDF bunker retained as testimony to the 1973 Yom Kippur War in which Israel lost 2,656 soldiers. The mountain top itself was serene but as we directly overlooked Syrian ruins, barely five, ten miles from the Israel-Syria border, I was confronted by Israel’s reality and the reality faced by every soldier and every family with a child or sibling serving: dedicating oneself to a military negotiating a constant barrage of existential threats. The view was jarring. As I took in Ben-Tal’s air, however, I didn’t feel fear. Instead, I breathed Israel’s resilience. It’s a resilience born from a country of immigrants fleeing persecution, epitomized on days like Yom Hazikaron when I recognize the human cost of protecting the Jewish future.
I felt the same resilience dancing and davening at the Kotel, or Western Wall, during Erev Shabbat with my Kehillah class last year alongside Jewish women of all ages. Amid the cacophony of study abroad participants, citizens, and soldiers, I witnessed in the center of Jerusalem Israel’s unparalleled will to trek forward, writing the next chapter in the Jewish story.
As I grieve for fallen soldiers today, and hold in my heart friends and family members who’ve chosen to serve in the Israeli army, I remember there’s no place like Israel because there’s no place that’s been tested like Israel and, nonetheless, stands strong.
The stark contrast between the two consecutive days of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) signifies the inherent connection between these holidays. Just like Jewish tradition invites us to break a glass at a wedding, we can never celebrate the good without taking time to remember and honor the sad. Yom HaAtzmaut wouldn’t happen without all of the people who gave their lives defending the creation and existence of the State of Israel. On Yom HaZikaron we recall their names, stories and memories. On Yom HaAtzmaut, we celebrate what their sacrifices gave us: 73 years of the State of Israel.
To celebrate, Israel Club put together a fabulous party, filled with trivia, songs, dancing and a virtual escape room! Part of our program had students write wishes as if they were at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things they wished for.
“I wish to find myself”
“I wish to be happy and healthy forever and for everyone around me to be the same”
“I wish to figure out what’s best for me”
“I wish to end injustice and discrimination”
“I wish to travel again”
“I hope that more and more people will get vaccinated and I’ll be able to hug my friends”
“I wish to make friends at school”
“To live my dream life”