As a kehillah of URJ Heller High, we had the opportunity of experiencing the dramatic switch between the memorial day of Yom HaZikaron and the independence day of Yom Ha’atzmaut.
We began Yom Hazikaron with the rest of Israel on Friday night by attending a ceremony at the Kotel. It was a new environment for most of us. All of those attending stood together to listen to the words of President Rivlin as well as the other leaders of the ceremony. The ceremony started with the siren that was sounded all across the nation. I found it striking that we were able to hear this symbolic siren standing right in front of the Western Wall, surrounded by so many Israelis. I particularly liked how we all stood together not separated by gender, regardless of our branch of Judaism. Something that stood out to me was the first torch lit at the ceremony. This was done by Rivlin along with two sons and a widow who lost her husband a few years ago as he was serving in the IDF. I found it heartwarming that the gratitude was shown to this mourning family as a sign of immense respect and dedication. Another part of the ceremony that stood out to me was everybody joining together in prayer for the Mourners’ Kaddish. No matter what Jewish movement you identify with, each person knew how much this prayer meant and understood the appreciation they owed to soldiers that had given their lives for Israel. This is similar with the Hatikva, as there was a large sense of unification amongst the crowd and ceremony participants.
The following day we continued to observe Yom HaZikaron. As a Heller High kehillah, we attended a ceremony for the memorial day at Kibbutz Tzuba. It was interesting to observe how the community, that sometimes we forget lives amongst us, come together to mourn over the losses of those who come from here, regardless of if they even knew them. Different members of the Kibbutz rose to speak and share words and songs of memory and appreciation. The Kibbutz specifically mourned two men who had given their lives fighting for Israel.
The very same night after observing Memorial day, we traveled to Ben Yehuda Street in order to begin Yom Ha’atzmaut. The switch from mourning to celebration was very intense. I had never personally experienced an instance in which a community went from such sadness to such vibrant cheer. The area was filled with loud music, dancing, food, etc. It was definitely one of the most fun times so far during our semester.
Yesterday, for Yom Ha’atzmaut, we celebrated by going to Palmachim Beach. It was an extremely relaxing day, where we enjoyed a great deal of free time. We shared our joy in the privilege of having Israel as a place we can call home. Many of us swam in the sea, tanned (or burned), played sports, and just hung out with friends. I can definitely say that I personally had a lot of time to reflect and be thankful for the establishment of this state, as it has given me much opportunity and security.