This coming week marks two very special “yamim” (days) in Israel, Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day). Yom Ha’Atzmaut is always celebrated on the 5th day of Iyar which correlates to the day the Israeli declaration of Independence was signed on May 14, 1948. A recording of this signing can be viewed here. By design, Yom Ha’atzmaut is immediately preceded by Yom HaZikaron. This purposeful layout of dates sends a very clear message that Israel’s independence was only gained through the sacrifice of the soldiers who fought for that independence.
These two days are filled with a range of emotions and my memories of these days in Israel will always stand out as the moment when I really felt what it means to be a citizen of Israel. From attending a Yom HaZikaron ceremony at the Western Wall to watching a parade of flags from Army officials, there was an indescribable feeling of camaraderie and community among the people gathered and it is this intangible sense of belonging that makes Israel such a special place.
In the Day School, we are continuing the Israeli tradition of moving directly from an extremely somber occasion (Yom HaZikaron) right into a time of extreme happiness and celebration (Yom Ha’atzmaut). While there are many difficulties in trying to teach about Israeli culture, this juxtaposition of preceding a day of such joy with a day of remembrance is one of the hardest. Our dedicated faculty, however, goes to great lengths to make sure that our students can understand what life in Israel is like.
On Wednesday, May 8, Yom HaZikaron, our students will participate in a tekes (ceremony) that celebrates the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in the name of creating and defending a Jewish state. They will hear from some of our Israeli faculty and listen to liturgy about remembering and they will have this “Israeli” experience in a place where their teachers can support them and nurture them. The very next day, on Yom Ha’atzmaut, our older students will take over the school and teach the rest of the students about what it means to be Israeli through games, food, art projects, and all around fun. The students will participate in the Israeli-born idea of Koolulam, a mass gathering concert.
Looking forward to a meaningful commemoration of these yamim next week.