Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day

On Tuesday night, we were eating dinner when suddenly a siren went off.  I had talked to the kids about the sirens that are sounded throughout the country for Holocaust Day (last week) and Memorial Day for one minute each, and explained to them that out of respect for the memory of those who have died, everyone will stop what they are doing and stand in silence.

Our home is located on a quiet residential street, but from one window we can see the busy shopping center a couple of minutes away.  Dd17 happened to be standing there when the siren went off, and she said it amazing, it was as if someone pushed ‘pause’ on the street scene.  Everyone instantly stopped walking and talking, cars pulled over to the side of the road and their drivers got out to stand silently next to their cars, and there was a sudden quietness except for the piercing siren.  We talked about how different Memorial Day here is than the US.  Here, there’s a sense of shared pain for the families of those who died protecting Israel (over 22,000 in the last 64 years).  Maybe it’s because it’s such a small country that everyone either knows someone who died in this way, or knows someone who knows someone – I read once that in Israel, there are only two degrees of separation between all the residents of the country.

There was a lecture that evening in the local hesder yeshiva about the Second Lebanon War given by a colonel of the northern command that I would have loved to go to, but unfortunately didn’t learn about it until the next morning.  (This notice came via an online digest, and when things are posted on short notice, the information that comes through the digest is often after the fact.)

The next morning, I did my shopping in the early part of the morning since the stores closed early for Memorial Day.  I got home in time for the 11 am memorial siren; all the kids except dd17 were in school, and they were disappointed they couldn’t watch the street scene she had described.  Later in the day, ds13 left for his weekly tutoring job in a different neighborhood, and after waiting 45 minutes for a bus, he came home.  He told me only two buses had come by at that time, and this was at a stop that usually has buses going through every couple of minutes.  I looked up the schedules online and found that most of the buses stopped running about 2:30 on Memorial Day, something I wasn’t expecting.

With the end of Memorial Day came the beginning of Israeli Independence Day.  This, too, is celebrated with much more patriotism and emotion than in the US.  For a couple of weeks already, Israeli flags begin flying everywhere – lining the main streets of the city, in front of homes, from car windows (there’s even this cute fabric cover for the exterior mirrors of your cars that is patterned as an Israeli flag that I saw on lots of cars).

>>Did you do anything fun for Yom Haatzmaut? (Independence Day)<<

That evening there were local free concerts that I might have enjoyed attending if not for the fact that we’re in the period of time called sefira, when we don’t listen to live music.   (There are those who feel that Yom Haatzmaut/Independence Day has the status of a religious holiday and do listen to live music, but this isn’t our belief.)  The streets may have been empty of the usual traffic and shopping noise, but oh, my!  – it was so, so noisy. There were fireworks going off and something that sounded like cannons being shot off (I assume those were different fireworks), the singing and sounds of people out celebrating late at night (the national laws regarding quiet hours are suspended on Independence Day), the distant music from the concerts (one concert began at 11 pm) – when I finally fell asleep after 2 am there was still plenty of noise.  I didn’t mind the noise; there’s a sense of national connection when everyone is celebrating together and I was able to appreciate that even without being actively present at any of the special events.

For the day itself, it seems that the entire country has a bbq and goes on trips!   But since most buses aren’t running that day, if you don’t have a car you’re definitely limited in this regard.  Dd17 went with a friend and her family to the Golan to a bbq at an army base to support the soldiers who remain on active duty on Independence Day, followed by a hike.

There were local activities and I sent dd15 and dd11 to scout a couple of sites in advance as far as what would be suitable for a family with children.  One large park had lots of musical entertainment, and the other had inflatable jumping things to play on and they were setting up for some kind of performance later in the day.  I thought I’d take the kids to the second park in the afternoon in time for the performance, but somehow I didn’t really pay much attention to the time and then suddenly it was too late.  It wasn’t something that I felt too badly about missing – while they would have enjoyed this, they were busy having fun all day with friends and each other.

However, next year I’d like to be a bit more proactive in taking advantage of the opportunity to do something as a family while everyone is home from school (well, almost everyone – ds13 had school as usual).  This week I’ve been really busy with others things so my focus wasn’t on planning for this.  It’s nice that there are so many local and free activities, and I’d like to research some of those events further in advance next year!


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