At the end of our Passover seders, we say “L’shanah haba’ah, b’Y’rushala’yim” – Next year in Jerusalem. As we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the State of Israel, I want to share some dates significant to Israel that helps us never to forget.”
Israel’s Knesset (parliament) established Yom HaShoah ( Holocaust Remembrance Day) as a memorial to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945. The full name is Yom HaShoah Ve-Hage Vurah, “(the Day of Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the heroism.” This observance occurs on the 27th day of Nisan. The Masorti Conservative movement in Israel created Megillat Ha Shoah, a scroll and liturgical reading for Yom HaShoah. This is a joint effort between Jewish leaders in Israel, the United States and Canada.
Yom Ha Zikaron, the memorial day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and the Victims of Terrorism is Israel’s official remembrance day enacted into law in 1963, the fourth day of Iyar. For 24 hours (from sunset to sunset) all public entertainment, i.e. theaters, clubs, etc. are closed. The sound of the siren is heard twice throughout Israel, during which the nation observes a two minutes “standstill” of all traffic and daily activities. All radio and television stations broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers. Most of the broadcasting time is devoted to Israeli songs that convey the mood of the day.
Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) in Israel is always preceded by Yom Ha Zikaron. The message is clear: “Israelis owe their independence – the very existence of the state – to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.” The official switch takes place a few minutes after sundown, with a flag raising from half-staff to the top of the pole at Mount Herzl. The President of Israel delivers a congratulatory speech; and soldiers representing the Army, Navy and Air Force parade with their flags. A torch lighting (hadlakat masuot) ceremony follows which highlights the country’s achievements in all spheres of life.
Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated on the fifth day of Iyar in Israel with parades, Israeli folk dance and song; free public shows; family picnics; and hikes. Army camps are open for civilians to visit and to display technological achievements of the Israeli Defense Forces. Yom Ha’atzmaut ends with ceremonial granting of the “Israel Prize” which recognizes individual Israelis for the unique contribution to the country’s culture, science, arts and humanities. This celebration serves as a reminder to us all that the future of our beloved land must be insured.
Yom Y’rushala’yim, the 28th day of Iyar, celebrates the Israeli victory of the unification of Jerusalem during the Six Day war with a thanksgiving service. Torches are lit in memory of Israeli soldiers who died during the battle for Jerusalem; there is singing, dancing and special meals prepared as Israelis rejoice in this most important historical victory.
My father was a Marine and he spent three and a half years in the South Pacific. As a veteran and an avid Zionist he suffered greatly: the decimation of the Jewish population throughout Europe and elsewhere and the need for a Jewish homeland. Throughout our childhood, my younger brother and I were taught the importance of fighting for and supporting the State of Israel: morally, economically, and politically. Over a seventeen year period, my parents spent summers and numerous vacations in the land they loved. My father died in April 1986, several months before our oldest sons’ Bar Mitzvah. Michael and I decided that we would take our first trip to Israel with our two sons in the summer of 1987; nine months before our second sons’ Bar Mitzvah. The trip we participated in became a Bar/Bat Mitzvah family experience, with Rabbi Robert Fine, as our spiritual leader and guide. Walking into the City of Gold, I finally understood my father’s passion for the land of Israel and its people. We felt deep admiration and amazement at the developments and beauty and history that the Israelis accomplished in such a short period of time. This trip was so special; it solidified our love for this magnificent country. Each time we return to Israel, we know we are coming home.
I wish you all, “L’shanah haba’ah, b’Y’rushala’yim” – Next year in Jerusalem.