Lately here on EIE all I’ve had the chance to do is study for the SAT and different AP tests; however, a couple weeks ago when things were less hectic academically here we celebrated three major Israeli holidays within a wee18
The first holiday was Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). It did not seem very apparent to us, not much was different. Despite that, in the morning we all gathered and there was a minute of complete silence throughout all of Israel as a siren went off. It was very eery, and I think it affected us all a bit more after our experience learning about the Holocaust in Poland. The rest of the day we went on almost completely as normal. Our teachers shared stories of some of their relatives’ Holocaust survival stories, but nothing else changed. That night we went to a play that was supposed to commemorate the Holocaust. It took place in Nazi occupied France from a small French Jewish girl’s perspective who was put into hiding. Most of us agreed it was not the best way to commemorate the six million, but the play was fine.
Secondly, it was time for Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day). Memorial Day in Israel is one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had. It’s completely different than Memorial Day in the United States; honestly, I don’t think most people in the U.S. understand what we are really trying to celebrate with Memorial Day after having experienced the Israeli equivalent. Here, there are no barbecues, people are not happy, they do not simply think of the three day week. This is a holiday that truly impacts every Israeli citizen, because Israel is such a small country that odds are everyone knows someone who has died in combat, or someone who knows someone who has died in combat, etc. My madrichim (counselors) told their stories to us and most of them cried– a lot of people cried that day. We started off the holiday by going to a ceremony at the Western Wall with the president and other random important officials. I didn’t understand the speech, because it was completely in Hebrew, but I could feel the powerful impact it had on the audience. The next morning we went to a ceremony that Kibbutz Tzuba holds yearly for the soldiers from the kibbutz who have passed. Luckily, no one has died from here in the very recent years, but there were still many Israelis in tears over the sheer power the holiday has on every citizen. I think it has that power, because it reminds them of how hard it has been to work for a Jewish state, and how Israelis continue to die for the cause. It is so difficult to know that one’s children are going to grow up, turn eighteen, and be immediately drafted into the army.
However, as it becomes nighttime, Yom HaZikaron comes to a close, and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) begins. You can feel the vibe change from devastatingly sad to ecstatically happy just by being here. EIE went to Ben Yehuda Street to celebrate, and it was quite a party to celebrate. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people there. There were concerts, and so much food, and this weird foam that everyone was spraying at each other. Every single person was just so happy to be there and happy that Israel exists. It was such a fun night, and a great way to recover from the sad day we had just experienced. For future travelers, I recommend coming for Independence Day, and maybe at the end of Memorial Day if you are looking for a fun trip.
After all of this, we spent a week at a hostel because our kibbutz kicked us out. The only other exceptionally interesting, not school-related thing we have done recently is go to the shuk yesterday. They assigned us each groups of 5 and gave us instructions all in Hebrew. With these instructions, we took the train to the shuk (to experience how an Israeli gets around) and then bought ourselves breakfast. My group went to the most amazing bakery, possibly in all of history. It is called Marzipan, and their pastries were all baked fresh. Their rugelach was actually life changing. We got two boxes- one of rugelach, one of mixed pastries — and ate them both. Each of the assigned groups was in charge of going to bargain for foods, so that we could all meet and have a picnic. We bought those ingredients quickly at the end of our free time, and then went to the picnic. There was so much food, but I was far too full to eat anything. It was a wonderful time, I recommend the Tel Aviv or Jerusalem shuk to anyone visiting, it’s a blast!