Bringing Two Israeli Traditions to Cleveland
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by Aviv Keinan, Community Shlicha (Israeli Emissary)
As a child, I would look forward to Memorial Day – Yom Hazikaron, but not like waiting for a birthday or a holiday. It’s another feeling like a heavy weight sitting on your heart. It's like a sense of anticipation when you know something bad is going to happen.
As teenagers, every year for Memorial Day we would look for a friend to spend the evening with, watch memorial and history movies together, hear melancholy songs, and commemorate the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) fallen soldiers. As adults who have gone through their military service, the reference is different – Yom Hazikaron is not just a sad day, it is a day of grief, for the friends we have lost and for the loss of our innocence.
On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, all the residents of Israel are in one ceremony or another, or watching it from home. There's a siren every year at 8 pm and everyone's getting ready for it – it’s a time when you don't cook, you don't take a shower, and you don't drive. Everyone is just waiting, waiting to hear the screaming siren pierce the air and tear our hearts.
Yom Hazikaron is a time to visit the cemetery – to pay our respects to soldiers who lost their lives, or civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were killed in terrorist attacks. Bereaved families, bereaved friends, a bereaved country.
Then in a sharp passage comes Independence Day - Yom Ha’atzmaut. A few hours after we cried on the graves of the dead, we celebrate the fact that we have a country, that we have confidence, that we are safe and well. Safe and sound thanks to them, thanks to those people who took their lives for us – for me – so I could sleep at night in peace.
The festivities are huge! Fireworks, shows, plays, children laughing, songs playing, and everyone loves and is proud of the country. It is a time to be with your family, celebrate the successes, and be proud of what we have achieved over the many years. The festivities are for everyone of all sectors, religions, and speakers of all languages – for anyone who feels that this is their country, that this is their home.
Imagine it: a tremendous joy that is mixed with sadness, within a few hours going from crying to laughing, from grief to joy. The transition is emotionally difficult but gives enormous meaning to the fact that we lost those amazing, beautiful, and wonderful boys and girls who did not get to start a family, attend university, or hear their son say "Daddy."
We are happy to have a country, we are proud of it, and we are proud of everyone who helped us reach this moment.
Join me and the rest of our Jewish Cleveland community for Yom Hazikaron on April 13 and Yom Ha’atzmaut on April 15 (attend the drive-in experience or virtual event). I look forward to sharing with you these two important Israeli traditions with you.