Written by: Jacob
The week of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day, respectively, was an emotionally draining, yet spiritually invigorating experience. The drastic change from mourning lives lost to celebrating Israel’s existence created a unique and unparalleled atmosphere throughout the country. I am very grateful to have experienced it!
Tuesday night was very solemn. We arrived at the Yom HaZikaron ceremony in the town of Mevaseret just in time to stand for the siren, marking the commencement of the holiday. During the minute-long siren, all of Israel stands in silence in honor of soldiers who have fought and died for the state of Israel. Despite the sadness of the occasion, it gave me chills to see every single seat in the amphitheater filled, some people even had to stand. This is normal for Israel but was so different than what I am used to at home. The ceremony was composed of speeches, musical performances, singing, and candle-lighting. It was truly saddening to see families who had lost their loved ones, this made me understand the reality of darkness surrounding this holiday. The ceremony concluded with the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, which boosted my morale and faith during this bitter occasion. Hearing the people in the amphitheater singing together was incredibly moving – I was proud to stand in solidarity with thousands of fellow Jews.
The following morning, we stood for another siren near the graves where soldiers who from Kibbutz Tzuba, where we live, were buried. We saw the cars on the road stop just as they did on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Afterwards, we stayed to watch the ceremony at Tzubah. Here, the families who lost loved ones spoke about their memories while struggling to hold back tears. After some was singing, this event also concluded with Hatikvah. The rest of the day was solemn and quiet until we reached the evening time, when the holiday transitioned into Yom HaAtzmaut.
Suddenly everyone was happy and celebrating. The change felt unnatural to me, just hours after Yom HaZikaron. But most of us embraced the Israeli tradition and our moods lightened during the transition ceremony. There was festive singing and dancing, and afterwards, there was an elaborate firework show. I was so touched to see everyone celebrating together on the kibbutz because it showed me how deeply community members cared for one another. I also felt this earlier in the day, when I saw kibbutz members consoling their friends and neighbors during the Yom HaZikaron ceremony. After the fun transition ceremony, we went to Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem to enjoy the holiday festivities. We had a really great night!
During the day of Yom HaAtzmaut, we traveled to a beach in Tel Aviv. We had a color war and a barbecue by the water. It was a nice way to enjoy Independence Day and everyone was able to rest after the emotional day prior.
Ultimately, I felt that being present for Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut added to the authenticity of my journey in Israel. Learning about the history that culminated in Israel’s independence not only furthered my comprehension of how significant this achievement was, but also my awareness of the loss that took place in order for this experience to happen. Thinking back, I believe it is important for these holidays to happen so close together, so that one cannot celebrate independence without acknowledging the toll that it took and is continuing to take on Jewish and Israeli lives. This was an opportunity for all of us to gain a better understanding of the framework that comprises the spirit of Israel and the beacon of light that will always keep the Jewish nation moving forward.