Without question, this has been one of my favorite weeks of the semester. The weather is finally gorgeous; it’s so sunny out that I had to come inside to do this blog post, much to my dismay. Plus, I only had two days of classes this week. This is the life.
Tuesday night and Wednesday were Yom HaZikaron, or Fallen Soldiers Day. It’s kind of like Memorial Day to us, but more somber. This is because the army is such a personal thing for Israelis. As I’ve mentioned before, every Israeli citizen is required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or do some sort of national service. So everyone here knows someone in the army at any given time. And almost everyone can relate to those who have lost their parents, sons, daughters, friends, etc. To commemorate the fallen soldiers, there are two sirens: one Tuesday night and one Wednesday morning. Like when the siren goes off on Yom HaShoah, everyone stops what they are doing and stands in silence for a minute. Yesterday, when the morning siren went off, I happened to be walking on a main road. All of the cars stopped and everyone- even the drivers- got out of their cars and stood in the middle of the road. On Tuesday night, my friends and I went to a ceremony in Rabin Square. It was a beautiful ceremony. They played a video featuring 6 soldiers who died in service. Each soldier had his own segment, which showed pictures of him and interviews with his friends and family. In between segments, there was a mini memorial concert.
During the day, some friends and I went to the beach because almost everything was closed. To my surprise, the beach was pretty empty. My friends and I concluded that most people must have been home because Yom HaZikaron strikes such a personal chord on everyone. I guess the reason why I was surprised is because on Memorial Day in the US, everyone is at the beach or pool with my family. We even have parades to honor our veterans. I guess its’ just a different way of remembering.
Once the sunset, all of a sudden things went from quiet to crazy for Yom Haatzmaout, Independence Day. My friends and I sprinted back to Rabin Square, decked out in our blue and white with stars on our faces and mini flags in our hands. The square was lit up with flashing lights. Kids were running around with shaving cream. There was an “Independence Day” concert in the square with dances, songs, you name it. There were fireworks in between performances. After the concert, there were a number of parties to choose from. I ended up going to the beach area, and all over, I could sense how proud and happy everyone was to be Israeli.
Today, the celebrations have continued. In the park across the street, there are a ton of people barbeque-ing. It’s so cool to see people relaxing on the grass, sipping a beer, and having a good time with their friends/family.
That’s all for now…I’m about to go grab a burger with some friends and picnic in the park! Happy 64th, Israel!