These are exactly the headlines that we do not see in Israel for the two holiest days of the secular year. Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, and Yom HaAtzmeut, Israel’s Independence Day, are not shopping holidays. In a country in which nearly all its citizens know the feeling of losing a loved one to terror or defense of the State, Israelis observe their Memorial Day with reverence and honor for the dead. In a young democracy, many of Israel’s inhabitants can still recall a time when Israel was a dream, only to wake up one morning to experience the dream fulfilled. These sacred civil holidays are treated as days when we break from the mundane and honor the unique place in time in which we exist—a time in which Jews are able to call their ancient land home once more.
As Jews, we know all too well what it means to mix sorrow with joy. We experience it at the Pesach seder, when we celebrate Purim, and when we gather for Yom Kippur. In Israel, the whiplash change from memorial to independence is not any less shocking 70 years after the creation of the state. Yom HaAtzmeut is a day filled with endless joy for the modern miracle of that is the State of Israel.
In the waning hours of Yom HaAtzmeut, we still carry the immense joy and pride of a Jewish and democratic; however, we also bear the heavy burden knowing how many lives were given so that the Jewish people could once again know what it feels like to be a free people in our land.
After 70 years of living the age-old dream, Israelis and Jews around the world know what it means to be powerless. The fierce way in which we honor the fallen and celebrate our independence is combined with our knowledge that our hope for peace is still yet to be realized. Whether we speak of peace between Jews and our neighbors or within the Jewish community itself, we pray and work for the day when Jerusalem is filled with a sense of harmony and quiet.
Source of Strength, fill us with compassion for Israel. May all its inhabitants find quiet in their homes and in their fields. May each who dwell in this holy land find freedom and tranquility. May the light of Torah be our guide to create a home filled with wholeness.
Please join Rabbi Rachael and me as we celebrate Israel as a part of our Shabbat services.
Chag Atzmaut Sameach! Happy Independence Day!