Monday, May 3, 2010
Reflections on Yom Haatzmaut
By Shahar Gal
Yom Ha’atzmaut for me is inseparable from Yom Hazikaron, which occurs one day before it. As a kid, I would attend Yom Hazikaron ceremonies in school and talk about the soldiers who died for our country, and then come home and mourn for the lost lives of people I never knew, surrounded by my family and friends. I never really understood the importance of this experience growing up, or the impact that seeing my mom crying for people she never met in her life had on me until I was asked to reflect on my experiences now that I am a shaliach in Chicago, celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut outside of Israel for the first time. It is now that I realize how those memories and experiences have shaped my life, and on this Yom Ha’atzmaut 5770, I want to share these memories with you.
In the afternoon of Yom Hazikaron, I used to sneak out and go to the city center where there was a strange atmosphere as people sat at home with their families commemorating Yom Hazikaron, but vendors and shop keepers were already preparing for that night’s celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, getting the cotton candy, plastic hammers, and all the little gadgets ready to sell only this year.
I remember that experience of walking around and feeling a little wrong because it was still Yom Hazikaron, but also embracing the excitement of the festivities that I knew were just around the corner.
It is my family’s tradition to gather together at my grandmother’s house to watch the main tekes (ceremony) happening on Mount Herzl and broadcast around the world that signifies the end of Yom Hazikaron and the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut. I always get a rush of excitement when the president announces the beginning of the celebrations of Yom Ha’atmaut, and then the sound of fireworks going off around the country. My family would rush to our balcony to see the fireworks, and we could always hear the sounds of the parade from your neighbors’ TV’s, and a strange warm feeling would overcome us all. Everyone would then rush to the main square of the city where we would celebrate together all night long, friends, families and strangers alike.
The day of Yom Ha’atzmaut is also an exciting day in Israel, with tons of options for ways to celebrate, like meeting up with friends, going to the beach, watching the IDF Air Force show, and more. For me, that day is spent at the Gal family barbeque, grilling on our mangal (which is very different than a normal barbeque), and enjoying our day together. The most memorable thing about Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel is that everywhere you go, people are having fun, doing fun and interesting things, and most importantly, are in great moods!!!
You finish the day wiped out and happy and not really remembering what you did, the whole two-day experience being a whirlwind of emotions, from sadness to excitement, sorrow to joy - but always looking forward to next year. I guess the biggest thing is that for one day people allow themselves to be happy we made it through another year. This year, I will be making new memories, celebrating in new ways and with new friends. I am excited to experience Yom Ha’atzmaut in Chicago, but I am also thankful for the memories and experiences I have with my friends and family back home.
Shahar Gal is a Jewish Agency Shaliach and Program Coordinator at Shorashim in Chicago. He is a licensed and accomplished tour educator in Israel, and has led countless Taglit-Birthight Israel programs and the Shorashim High School Program. Before moving to Chicago, Shahar married Lee Perry Gal, another Shorashim educator. He is a Project InCiTE Fellow.
Posted by InCITE Fellows at 12:48 PM