by Hallie E., NFTY-EIE Spring 2013 Student
On April 15th NFTY-EIE got to experience two very different holidays in Israel. The morning started off with a ceremony at the cemetery on the Kibbutz for Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance). Even though the ceremony was all in Hebrew, I could experience what goes on during this holiday and think about the families on the Kibbutz and all over Israel who have lost loved ones that fought for this State. It was hard to see so many people upset around me, but everyone had people around them for support.
It was a powerful moment to hear the siren go off all over Israel to give a moment of silence to remember all the fallen soldiers. It’s unreal that in that minute the entire State stops whatever they are doing and remembers. In America we have Memorial Day, but it is very different than in Israel. In America, the day is filled with stores having big sales and many people looking forward to a day of shopping and deals. People are excited for a long weekend at the beach and the day off of school. Many don’t even take a moment out of their day to remember what the holiday is even about. In Israel, mostly everything is closed down, and the holiday is taken a lot more seriously. Almost everyone is Israel knows at least one soldier that they are remembering on this day. Throughout the day I heard emotional stories about people that lost friends and family.
In the evening, after our general studies classes, we had another ceremony with the entire Kibbutz for Yom HaZikaron. Again, it did not matter to me that I could not understand what the speakers were saying. I could tell by the tone of their voices what their stories were about, and could proudly join in with the rest of the Kibbutz in the singing of Hatikvah (Israel’s national anthem).
The night quickly transitioned from a sad evening, to a happy celebration of Israel’s Independence with Yom HaAtzmaut. We watched fireworks, and then headed inside for some fun Israeli dancing! The night was not over yet. We boarded the buses and headed to Ben Yehudah Street. It seemed like all of Jerusalem was there! The streets were crowded with thousands of people who all shared the same ruach (spirit).
The energy that filled the streets is something that I have never experienced before and I hope to never forget. There was a live band playing and my friends and I started dancing under Israeli flags that people were holding up. When we walked down the streets, all we saw was white and blue. People were wearing flags around them, holding up blow-up Israeli flags, and throwing confetti. Everyone was so happy to be celebrating Israel’s Independence and her 65th birthday. To be able to share this holiday with so many Israelis around me was very cool. This is not how I celebrate America’s Independence Day! In the US, people usually have BBQs, or go to the beach. In Israel, everyone comes together to celebrate together, whether you know each other or not.
I can tell that the people in Israel feel more connected to their freedom, and seem a lot more spirited and enthusiastic. There are huge celebrations everywhere! This night was overall amazing and something I hope to be able to experience again.