The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
One of the most meaningful things for me to do on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is to look at videos of Israel observing the holiday. Across Israel, loud sirens stop all traffic, business and activity for one minute as people stand at attention and remember. (If you haven’t seen this phenomenon before, I highly suggest you watch one of the videos.) This time of year asks Israelis to reflect on more than just the destruction of the Shoah as Israel turns to Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) just next week.
As Hanan Cidor, an Israel Reform Jew, reminded us last year,
“The idea behind this is that the day before celebrating our independence, we are reminded of the price and sacrifice made by so many in order to keep us free.
“If you’ve never been in Israel during those two days, nothing can possibly explain the experience and the kind of emotions that it evokes. After a full day of grief and remembrance, something that is very much relevant from a personal standpoint to literally every Israeli, we go rather abruptly to a truly joyous celebration of our freedom and achievements during Israel’s Independence Day.”
Yom HaAtzmaut marks a special time to celebrate what Israel has achieved as the first independent Jewish state in 2,000 years, and hope towards the future to what Israel might be able to achieve in the coming years. As Hanan puts it,
“Yom Ha’Atzmaut has always been my favorite holiday of the year. Not because I don’t like any of the other holidays, but because in my view it is probably the only holiday where we celebrate a project that is still ongoing; where all of us can make a difference and shape the way this wonderful country, filled with our people, will look in the next year and the one after that. In my eyes, taking an active involvement in the shaping of our country and our people is the best way to commemorate the memory of those who have died defending it. Nothing is worth celebrating more than that.”
As an American Jew, the holidays of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut provide me with a renewed focus to shape Israel into a just, compassionate country that lives up to Jewish values. Amidst the near-constant work of trying to make my own country a more just place, these holidays are a reminder that Israelis too are trying to do the same with their country. And while I will never truly understand the grief evoked by Yom HaZikaron and the joy of Yom HaAtzmaut, I know that I can work with Israelis to create an Israel that better meets the needs of all its residents.
As this Yom HaAtzmaut approaches, I think most of the World Zionist Congress elections, which provide an avenue for Jews across the world to have a say in Israeli policies. I’m running on the ARZA slate, which seeks to promote women’s rights, religious pluralism and a two-state solution with its delegates in the next World Zionist Congress. As we celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, there’s no better way to express your love for Israel and commitment to making a difference there by voting in the elections. Voting closes in two weeks, so cast your vote now!