It’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and, as remarked upon by both local and foreign observers, the country swings in a schizophrenic kind of way from the mourning, sorrow and remembrance of Yom Hazikaron to the flag-waving patriotism and general merry-making of Yom Ha’atzmaut.
Prayers marking the transition from the mourning of Yom Hazikaron to the celebrations of Yom Haatzmaut were held in synagogues throughout the country. Hundreds attended the prayers at the Kotel which were led by Rabbi Uri Sherki whose son was murdered just last week in another Palestinian car-ramming attack. Rabbi Sherki pleaded for unity:
Hundreds of people flocked to the Western Wall (Kotel) on Wednesday night, to inaugurate Israel’s 67th Independence Day.
The prayer was organized by Rabbi Uri Sherki, who rose from the weeklong shiva mourning period earlier Wednesday for his son, Shalom Yohai, who was killed in last week’s brutal car rampage attack in Jerusalem.
There is a direct line, and endless chain [of events] stretching from [the Biblical] Saul and Jonathan to the political assassinations of today,” he continued. “After words of David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan, he stood up and established the kingdom, first in Hevron and then in Jerusalem.”
“We, too, have to remember that from the heroism of the fallen, we need to go and build our country bravely and humbly, in body and soul,” he said, emphasizing the importance of Jewish unity.
“We will sanctify God’s name wherever we are – and to all the people of Israel, secular and religious, Ashkenazic and Sephardic, right and left-wing, we will love them freely, and thus we will see redemption speedily in our days,” he concluded.
May Shalom Sherki HY’D’s memory be for a blessing and may his family know no more sorrow.
In a change from previous years, I attended the festive prayer service in my daughter’s community of Karnei Shomron; the shul was packed and people sang the psalms and prayers with great gusto. The highlight of the service was the blowing not of one, but 4 Shofars in a deafening blast followed by a rousing rendition of “Next year in Jerusalem!”.
The prayers were followed by some dancing and then a very entertaining show put on by the town’s residents. Every age group took part, from kindergarten to grandparents, and I had huge nachas from seeing my grandchildren perform in various dances, flag bearing and banging on the darbuka. 🙂
In the morning, if the weather holds (which is looking a bit iffy) we’ll be taking a hike through the local wadi, Nachal Kaneh, and later on the rest of the wider family will be arriving at my daughter’s for our traditional “mangal” – barbecue, although if it starts raining (as the forecasters unfestively announced), we’ll have to move indoors and try not to burn the house down!
Earlier this evening the day’s official events kicked off with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mt. Herzl, and in a marked change from ever before, this year an Arab was honoured with one of the torches:
Lucy Aharish, an Israeli-Arab news anchor and actress, was among the 14 torch lighters in the official ceremony kicking off Israel’s celebrations of 67 years of independence on Wednesday night. Almost breaking down at the ceremony, she was the only one of the honorees to give part of her brief address in Arabic.
Aharish, 33, a Muslim Arab whose parents hail from Nazareth but who was educated in Jewish institutions, instantly became a target of far-right criticism when it was announced earlier this month that she had accepted the honor of lighting a torch at the state Independence Day ceremony.
Some left-wing critics said her accepting the honor constituted an agreement to serve as a fig leaf of the government.
From the extreme right — Lehava, a group acting to prevent intermarriage and other integration by non-Jewish citizens in Israeli life — was prevented by the police from protesting against Aharish’s involvement in the event.
Aharish was teary-eyed when she took her turn at the ceremony, saying she was lighting the torch “for all human beings wherever they may be who have not lost hope for peace, and for the children, full of innocence who live on this Earth.
“For those we were but are no more, who fell victim to baseless hatred by those who have forgotten that we were all born in the image of one God. For Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews, sons of this motherland that reminds us that we have no other place, for us as Israel, for the honor of mankind and for the glory of the State of Israel,” she said.
Aharish, the only Arab lighting a torch in the ceremony, also spoke in Arabic, saying: “For our honor as human beings, this is our country and there is no other.”
In an interview with the Times of Israel this week, Aharish defined her identity as Israeli first and foremost.
“Today, when people ask me ‘What are you?’ I say that I’m an Israeli,” she said. “I’m not ashamed of my Israeliness. Then I’m a woman, and then I’m an Arab Muslim. That’s the order: Israeli, woman, Arab Muslim.”
What a remarkable woman! Israel can be proud that Ms. Aharish is proud to be an Israeli.
Speaking of women, in the spirit of the day, here is a salute to the women of the IDF with the stories of 4 female soldiers of the IDF (h/t Elchanan):
On the same theme, here is a beautiful video produced by Nefesh B’Nefesh, on why Olim (immigrants to Israel) love Israel:
Look at this a beautiful project undertaken by the Knesset – a display of children’s drawings of the Israeli flag.
And here is a salute to Petach Tikva! Yay for my hometown! (h/t Shelley). At least no. 55 of the 67 +1 reasons why I love Israel. 🙂
2. Who says we’re not traditional? Seventy- three percent of us fast on Yom Kippur, 84% in Jerusalem.
4. My supermarket features pins and tape at the entrance before Succot, anticipating the need to hang up children’s artwork in the tent-like booths.
8. The entire Cinema City in Jerusalem changed over to Passover mode on the same day.
9. When a new pharmacy opened on a trendy Jerusalem street, across from an old one, the buzz was about whether such close competition was allowed in Jewish law.
10. Israeli invention: a featherless chicken.
15. The news announcers say, “Moadim l’simha,” during Passover, and everyone knows that the greeting refers to the intermediate days of the holiday.
17. We treat over 90% of our wastewater, more than any other country. Our biggest garbage dump has become a terrific park.
18. Our average public healthcare is ranked superior to that of the United States, and everyone, employed or not, has coverage.
24. A new Israeli stamp features the Cyrus Declaration from 538 BCE, in which the Persian king allowed a return to Israel, as reported in the Book of Ezra.
The glue on the stamp is kosher.
25. Big signs off highways announce: “Shmita is observed here” – leaving the land fallow – and many hurried to plant before the sabbatical year began.
26. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund suspends tree-planting for a shmita year.
27. Importing vegetables from Hamas farms isn’t a peace initiative – it’s a shmita initiative.
28. An Israeli porcupine dug up a 1,400-year-old oil lamp.
33. El Al ground crew and flight attendants dress up for Purim.
34. TV news anchors wear costumes on Purim; TV marks Purim with Monty Python movies.
48. Don’t tell those who shout “apartheid”: Gaza farmers attended a seminar in northern Israel and learned to double their watermelon crop.
50. No wonder folks in Tel Aviv enjoy a beer. Bronze-Age beer mugs were recently discovered in the city.
51. Saveur Culinary Travel Awards 2014 named Israel’s airline a winner of the Inflight Wine award.
52. National Geographic listed Tel Aviv as one of the top 10 seafront city meccas.
53. In 2014, Twitter users from around the world labeled Tel Aviv one of the top 10 hottest destinations to visit that year.
54. Despite all the beer, beaches and partying, Tel Aviv won the World Smart City award as part of Smart City Expo in Barcelona, beating 250 competitors.
55. Nonetheless, the biggest export city isn’t Tel Aviv; it’s the pioneering city of Petah Tikva, literally the “opening to hope.”
64. Simha. We score high on the world’s happiness tests.
65. We offer sports tours, wine tours, chocolate tours and now the healthy Salad Trail tour of our country.
68. Jewish Agency statistics for 2014 show that immigration to Israel hit a 10-year high with the arrival of about 26,500 new immigrants, the largest group arriving from France. Welcome my brothers, welcome my sisters.
One of my favourite comic columnists, Benji Lovitt, has also produced his annual “why I love Israel” columns with a very funny list. Here are some highlights:
42. I love that despite living in the desert, our desalination plants allow us to have a water surplus. That’s like living on the sun and having ice in your freezer.
43. I love the complete cognitive dissonance I experience when processing the hyper-Jewish names of our fashion designers: Yaron Minkowski, Maor Radwinowitz, and Irena Burshtein. Move over, Coco Chanel, and make room for the next big thing, Shuki Yankelfish.
44. I love that we name our parking lots after former Prime Ministers. In Golda’s famous words, “We will only have peace when our drivers love Kvish 6 more than they hate honking.”
47. I love the ideological, uplifting names the pioneers gave our cities: “Opening of Hope” (Petach Tikvah), “The First to Zion” (Rishon L’Tzion), “Gift of G-d” (Netanya)… If Herzl had accepted the offer of Uganda, I’d be writing this from Rishon L’Jungle.
56. I love that you can drive the entire country without losing your favorite radio station.
57. I love that on Friday afternoon, Galgalatz radio will list the Shabbat times and announce the weekly parsha. “Coming up next, Kanye, Taylor Swift, and Lech Lecha.”
58. I love that on consecutive Saturday nights before the election, a left- and right-wing rally each attracted thousands to Kikar Rabin. They should have just met on Wednesday, played sheshbesh, and let the winner run the country.
64. I love that during Operation Protective Edge, our national airline continued operating flights when so many foreign carriers stopped out of fear. El Al got so much love, it was like the romantic comedy when the girl realizes she should dump the a-hole because her true love was right there all along.
65. I love our country’s powerful sense of community you feel most in times of need. Despite the fear that lone soldier Sean Carmeli’s funeral would be unattended, twenty thousand people showed up to support him. A lone soldier is anything but.
66. I love not only that so many people refused to cancel their trips to Israel during the war but that so many decided to come because of it. There was nowhere in the world I would have rather been and if you’ve never been here or can’t understand that, I invite you to come today, next week, next year, or whenever. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on one of the most special places on the planet.
67. I love that I’ve had this once in a lifetime experience and it’s not over yet.
I’ll say Amen to that! I’m sure if we put our minds to it we could think of another 67 reasons why we love Israel – and many more besides.
Happy Birthday Israel! Chag Same’ach! I won’t say עד מאה ועשרים – ad me’ah ve’esrim (until 120) – because I hope you live till thousands of years old!