י״ד באייר ה׳תשע״ז (May 10, 2017) Feeling the Sadness and the Joy
Before celebrating Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, in Israel this past week, I had never before truly felt pride in a country. These two days in Israel have really taught me what it means to be grateful for the existence, power and importance of a nation state. Israeli pride is such a crucial and special part of the culture here, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I played a role in that pride.
On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, we all gathered for a ceremony. Each of our madrichim told a story about a specific fallen soldier. At first, it was a little hard for me to connect to all these tragic stories about people who risked everything to defend Israel. However, after a while, I started to understand that these weren’t just tragic tales, but rather examples of honor and sacrifice. I was proud to be part of a country that honors its fallen soldiers, and not just mourns them.
Yom Ha’atzmaut directly follows Yom Hazikaron. I never understood why these two days were right next to each other. I thought that it made no sense to go right from feeling sad and mourning to partying and being happy. After this week, I now understand not only why this is good, but also why it’s essential. To me, the excitement and joy that everyone in the country was feeling on Yom Ha’atzmaut gave meaning to Yom Hazikaron. It taught me that the fallen soliders were fighting for a purpose: the state of Israel and the survival of the Jewish people.
Tuesday night on Ben Yehuda St. with the loud music, dancing and Israeli flags everywhere, it was hard not to feel pride in the country. These last three months have taught me why Israel is so critical to all of the Jewish people, and more specifically why it matters to me. That night I celebrated the fact that I had finally connected to Israel and to everyone else who loves this land. In Israel, soldiers die with honor fighting for this state, so that I and all other Jews can celebrate its independence and take part in its existence. I am proud to be part of Israel, the Jewish state.