I haven’t been blogging lately because of Passover cleaning and preparations. Now that we have put our Pesach dishes away and are eating bread again, I hope to have more time….
This period of time in Israel is what I usually think of as Jewish History “Month” (it really is 7 weeks long…) Although most Jewish holidays reflect some sort of historical event (with the exception of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur), this time of the year has many significant days, each with its own connotation.
Passover is of course the time when the Jewish people became the Jewish people, as we were liberated from slavery in Egypt. A week after Passover, we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel, corresponding to the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Ceremonies take place both in the evening and on the day itself, and a siren goes off in the morning signalling everyone to stop and stand for two minutes of silence. There are programs on the radio and television and special newspaper articles written about the Holocaust. On the day itself you can usually hear recorded interviews of Holocaust survivors themselves.
A week after that is Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terrorist victims. Ceremonies are held both in the evening and during the subsequent day, and a siren again signals the time to stop and stand for two minutes of silence. There is always a moving ceremony in the evening in our yishuv. There is usually a video clip made on one aspect of the day. Last year they interviewed a man who lost a brother in one of the wars, and he spoke about how this affected his family and his own decisions about where to serve in the army.
The sorrow of this day is followed by Yom HaAtzmaut – Israeli Independence Day, usually including fireworks and mass consumption of barbequed meat. Practically the entire country is outside fanning the flames (except for those who use their gas grills). If the Maytag man in America was the loneliest person, this “honor” goes to the strict vegetarian on Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel.
There is a small break until Lag B’Omer, when those industrious children can finally burn their bonfire, after collecting wood for the past month. Ten days later is Jerusalem Day, when we celebrate the unification of Jerusalem that happened due to the Six Day War.
A week later we celebrate Shavuot, the time when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai.
This seven week period of time is very intense in Israel. Our identity as Jews and Israelis is strengthened by the commemorations of both ancient and recent historical events, and there is a feeling of being part of a “nation”. Growing up in America I always felt patriotic, but at the same time I felt “different” as a Jew. Here in Israel the patriotism I feel is complete. There is a joy in seeing the Israeli flag flown everywhere.