Sunday night began the Yom Hazikaron, the 2nd of three special and different days in Israel. Due to me being on the va'ad for Yom Hazikaron, I spent all day Sunday after work doing last minute preparation and setting up the Moadon for the evening. That evening a little bit before 8 we started with ma'ariv and then our tekas began with poems, a movie about Alex Singer, an American lone solider killed in Lebanon and songs relating to the day. At 8 PM the 1st siren for the day went off and some of the feelings that I had felt a week ago on Yom HaShoah came back. We also included in our tekas a round robin program and I taught about heroism and told the stories of Eli Cohen and Hannah Senesh. Once these sessions were finished, we concluded the evening with everyone reading the brief information we found on just 42 of the 22,684 soldiers killed since the beginning of the state and lit a candle. This part was very emotional especially since Nadiv and Elkana knew three of the soldiers personally. Once our tekas was over I went back to my room, checked out the TV, which just like Yom HaShoah, had either programming for Yom Hazikaron or saying that programming will resume the next day.
Monday began a crazy 36 hours with little sleep. After tiffilot, we drove to Jerusalem and went straight to Har Herzl and it was really hard to get there due to the traffic, but the bus was able to drop us off close by. We then started our walk to the cemetery and on the way students from various programs and soldiers were handing out flowers to put on graves, water and books of tehillim to say. Once I got into the actually cemetery we had the time to go where ever we wanted so I chose to walk with some friends towards the graves for soldiers killed in 1948 and for a lot of soldiers there was just a mass grave because their bodies were never found. At 11 AM the 2nd siren of the day went off, and it was pretty amazing to see the thousands of families, friends and soldiers come to a stand still for the 2 minutes. Once the siren was over, a ceremony started and you were able to hear it over the loudspeaker but it was hard to hear and it was also all in Hebrew. Therefore I spent the time walking around seeing all the graves and because I stuck to the section for the earlier years of the state there was not as many people, but still a lot. I think that being able to go to Har Herzl really allowed me to see how much Israel comes together as a nation on this day due to almost everyone knowing someone who was killed. As well, when the ceremony was over and we were leaving I was able to see how around the graves in the newer sections were packed with no room to move.
Once we left the cemetery we went to Beit Nativ for an uneventful lunch followed by an afternoon of various speakers. We started by hearing from Elkana and him talking to us about him being a tank commander and some of the soldiers that he had trained where killed in the 2nd Lebanon war; he also played a song for us that he had composed the tune to. We then heard from Michael Levin (z"l) parents about him and his story and told us both the good and the bad. I won't go into detail about exactly what we were told but it was quite moving. We then watched the movie "As If Nothing Happened", about the terrorist bombing at the Beit Lid Junction and the movie focused on a family that was sitting in limbo not knowing if their son had been killed or not and the tension surround this event. To conclude the Nativ portion of Yom Hazikaron, Yossi talked to us about the contrasting effects of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut being one after another and little bit about some events going on that evening.
Since there was not much to do until we were heading to tiffilot later, I took a nap downstairs in -3 because all the room were being used by March of the Living. At around 6 we headed out, made a quick stop at Cup O'Joe and then continued on to Shira Hadasha for services. Services began with Minch and then there was a tekas to move from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut. This tekas included poems, speeches and songs and also people stood up and said names if they knew someone killed in a war or terrorist attack. It was quite moving and was a nice way to end such a somber day. Ma'ariv was then began with instruments since it was a weekday and Hallel was also said and since this was such a festive occasion Hallel took quite a long time but with the instruments and everyone being a great mood I enjoyed it immensely. We then headed out to Emek Refaim to grab something for dinner and then went back to Beit Nativ to put things away, and change for the rest of the evening. We then headed out for the rest of the evening and when we were walking towards Ben Yehudah St. there were people selling various toys and such for the holiday and everyone was in a crazy festive mood. When we got to Ben Yehudah, it was packed to the max with people celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut and there was music, food and dancing all along the street. While I had wanted to stay out all night and celebrate Israel's birthday, I had a really bad cold so I chose to go back to Beit Nativ and try and sleep. However, due to Nativers coming back at all hours I did not get much sleep.
Tuesday morning, once I got back and got my things together, I hung out with some of my friends who were up and then began to help prepare for our huge Nativ Mangal (BBQ) which is the Israeli thing to do and after being in Israel for so long, it was only fitting. We began by skewering and marinating vegetables, steak, turkey and more and then I helped BBQ for the afternoon. Of what I did eat, the food was amazing and it was great being outside and party with everyone else; we also saw a few fly-bys which were really cool. The afternoon before heading back to kibbutz was spent hanging out and enjoying being outside and in Jerusalem for Yom Ha'atzmaut.
One thing I noticed was that when Hatikvah was played Monday, it had a whole new meaning for me after being in Israel for the past 8 month and realizing how special Israel is as a country and a homeland. I was so glad that I was able to finally celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel and despite being sick still had a great time.
Tuesday and Wednesday will be spent in Be'er Sheva learning about how to advocate for Israel and I will report back later in the week.