י״א באייר ה׳תשע״ו (May 19, 2016) Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut With Pride and Gratitude
The hardest part of TRY is explaining to people not on the program the atmosphere that surrounds us here each and every day. There’s something about the feeling one gets while walking the streets of Jerusalem. It has to do with knowing how much history and effort was required to get us here. It’s something that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. Everyone I’ve met here, regardless of whether they’re left wing or right wing, religious or secular, English- or Hebrew-speaking, is united under one banner of national pride and Jewish identity.
This atmosphere was amplified on Yom Ha’atzmaut. On the evening of the holiday, just hours after Yom Hazikaron-Israel’s most solemn and heavy time-the excitement and celebration was everywhere. We went to Ben Yehuda Street, in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. Thousands of people had gathered to rejoice about our country, in our country, and with our country. The jubilation across the city was palpable. All along the street, people danced and sang. They wore all sorts of creative Israeli attire, and simply let loose. With fireworks exploding in colorful bursts in the background, and with my fellow students and thousands of others around me, I had never felt more at home in the Jewish state.
The following day, we headed to the beaches to swim and grill lunch alongside hundreds of happy Israeli families. Seeing this initially gave me a tinge of sadness and longing for my own family back in Canada. But when it came down to it, all of us on that beach were one big family. The relationships I have created on TRY are life-long, and here in Israel I even connect with strangers more than I ever would with the average North American.
Underneath the Air Force flyby, and on top of the sand and waves, I felt a remarkable sense of contentment, pride, and gratitude, for in 68 years we have established a thriving Jewish state-and I have had the unbelievable opportunity to be a part of it.