Typically this blog wouldn't really kick into high gear until we're in Israel and there's stuff to report. But I have (what I think is) a quiet moment and so wanted to share a quick thought about our travel from Atlanta to Israel. We are travelling during Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut-- two of the most sacred days in Modern Jewish History.
Separated by only 1 hour, the two holidays are completely different and yet inextricably bound. Yom HaZikaron honors the heavy cost and the profound sacrifice that has been made by Israelis over the generations to protect, uphold, and secure the state of Israel. As we board our planes, Israelis all across the country will be returning to their high schools to participate in memorial ceremonies for their fallen classmates, friends, and family members. Every Israeli is touched by this day.
The hour between Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut is one of the most Jewish hours there is. It is an hour of transition from heartbreaking sorry to ecstatic joy. More than a day dedicated to Israel's independence, Yom Ha'Atzmaut is actually a day celebrating Israel's existence. I struggle to think of another country whose existence as an independent, democratic state is so completely and utterly miraculous. That coupled with the fact that Yom Ha'Atzmaut is an international celebration honored by Jewish communities around the world-- makes it a very special day. Yom Ha'Atzmaut is the only modern Jewish holiday that is considered so significant that the traditional words of Hallel are chanted in synagogues. We'll miss most of the raucous celebration, but I'll never forget the image of ultra orthodox Jews spraying one another with silly string on Ben Yehuda Street. That's Yom Ha'Atzmaut.
So as we cross the Atlantic we are crossing not only from Atlanta to Tel Aviv, but we are crossing from Zikaron (memory/ history) to Atzmaut (independence/ existence). In the weeks to follow Israel will come alive for our students in ways that they cannot yet appreciate. These experiences will transform their connection to Israel from one of study to one of living. It starts the minute we land at Ben Gurion Airport. More then...