My son Meron’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few months after we moved to Israel. His Hebrew birthday is close to Yom Haatzmaut - Israel’s Independence Day. Meron really wanted an event at a place significant to 1948, the year the modern State of Israel was born. He was adamant about realizing his dream of everyone making a BBQ for the occasion.
A friend who was an event planner suggested an outdoor space on top of a mountain with spectacular views. This was a battle site during the War of Independence, and was a perfect spot for the event. When I went to look at the space, I asked a senior army officer what happens if it rains? The soldier was irritated by my request and impatiently told me it never rains on Independence Day. Typically by April it’s hot and dry.
Well, there is a first for everything. It poured, hailed, and sleeted.
I was so caught up in my stress that I never felt Yom Haatzmaut. The vibe in Israel is ecstatic.
The historian and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren describes the mood outside of Ben-Gurion’s home just prior to the declaration of Independence, capturing the spirit of the day:
“The Jews of Palestine…were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind’s largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world’s Jews, that people was returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state.”
Preceding Yom Haatzmaut, Israel goes through two days of mourning one for victims of the Holocaust, and one for the fallen soldiers and victims of terror. Everyone is acutely aware of the price it takes to have a Jewish homeland.
Over shabbat we should all make a toast and use the traditional Hebrew phrase “L’chaim” meaning, “To life.”
Let’s appreciate life, those we have lost, and the privilege of having a place to call home: Israel.
first published on Facebook on May 6, 2022