So in Israel there are three major holidays clustered around the end of Pesach. These three holidays are also celebrated in the rest of the world, but they have special meaning here in Israel. These three holidays are Yom Zikaron HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha'atzmaut.
Yom Zikaron HaShoah is the day of rememberance for the Shoah (Holocaust.) It started on the night of May 1st this year. I stayed at the Kibbutz for the holiday so I got to see the way the Kibbutz commemorates this very important day. On Revivim there was a ceremony of about 45 minutes. At 8pm everyone assembled in the אולם תרבות (Literally: Cultural Hall) for the ceremony. The ceremony was poetry written by survivors and victims of the Holocaust. There were a few songs as well. The whole ceremony ended with אלי אלי (Eli Eli) by Chana Shenesh. I've heard the song many times in my life, but this time it was different. I can't really describe it, but it was somehow more powerful.
Yom HaZikaron is the Israeli version of memorial day. In the United States, Memorial day is a day of barbecues, sales at retail stores, and generally a pleasant day off. In Israel, a country where violent conflict is unfortunately sometimes a daily reality, Memorial day is a very important day. The television stations (even the cable ones) are all turned off. The ones that are still broadcasting only show names of Israel's fallen soldiers. This year the holiday started on the evening of May 7th. At Revivim there is a short program beginning at 8pm. It began with the air raid sirens. All of Israel heard these sirens across the State and stood in silence until it ended. The ceremony was much like the the Shoah memorial. There were poems written by soldiers and songs sung. The somber attitude was punctuate by the reading of the names. The list of names read at Revivim's memorial were the sons and daughters who fell during Israel's conflicts. Most of Revivim's soldiers who have fallen in conflict fell during the Independence war. Most fell defending the road junction just outside Revivim. They literally fell defending their homes and land.
The next day, after the ceremony, I was at work when the Sirens again sounded at 10am. Once again everyone in the country stopped and stood in place at attention in a moment of silence. I actually burned the turkey I was cooking on the grill because of the timing, but I didn't care one bit. To honor the soldiers who have fallen in defense of Israel is way more important than anything else I could have been doing.
The end of Yom HaZikaron merges seamlessly into Yom Ha'atzmaut: Israeli Independence Day. This year was a very special year to be in Israel. May 15th 1948 David Ben-Gurion announced to the world the establishment of the State of Israel. May 8th 2008 was the 60th anniversary of that momentous day. Last night around 5pm I got on a bus, and headed to Tel-Aviv to see the program and concert at Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square.) I have no idea how many people were there, but it was packed. My friends and I stood and listened to the concert and watched the spectacular fireworks and light show. My friends were a bit lost with the musical aspect, but I knew a lot of the songs sang that night. When HaTikvah (התקוה) was played I was moved to tears. Imagine it, 60 years of Israel and I got to be here for the day. It was a wild and crazy party and who could blame the average Israeli for being ecstatic about their home turning 60!
We returned to Revivim the same night. (We actually got home at around 3am.) Exhausted from the trip and the party we all fell into bed. When I woke up this afternoon, the Kibbutz barbecue was already in full swing. I spent the day eating, playing volley ball, and generally lounging around the Kibbutz pool. It was a great way to spend the holiday. As a side note, the Kibbutz had a program while I was away in Tel-Aviv. During the program the showed a video that had been filmed througout the Kibbutz over the last year. Apparently I was in this video and I'm trying to get a copy, more updates about that later.
I think that the best part about all of these celebrations and commemorations was my Hebrew level. When I went to Kikar Rabin for the memorial of Rabin's assassination, I understood very little of the ceremony. Over the last week and a half at every ceremony I was surprised at how much I understood. While Ulpan may not have been successful for everyone here at Revivim, It certainly was for me.
Looking forward to seeing all of my readers soon when I come visit the states.