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Happy Birthday Israel!

04/23/2015 11:05:32 AM


Happy Birthday Israel!

Dear Friends,


As Israel celebrates its 67th birthday today, I hope that all of us will take note of all that Israel has accomplished over the past 67 years.


It is easy to get caught up in the negative press about political decisions that Israel makes and forget about the wonderful contributions that Israel makes in our world.  You can look these up online if you wish while I tell you what Israel means to me on this special day.


When I travel to Israel, I love to be in a place where Hebrew is spoken. I love to spend Shabbat with others who are observing Shabbat and not worry that I am missing special Saturday school and sports activities that occupy so much of our time on Saturdays.


I love that the United States has a friend in the Middle East.


I love to eat falafel and to know that a kosher restaurant isn't a 45-minute drive.  I feel a special bond with other Jewish people because it is a Jewish country.   


I love going to the Western Wall and feeling a spiritual connection to our ancestors who went there in the days of the Temple.  I love walking in the footsteps of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and Miriam....I love that one can feel Jewish just by stepping outside!


I do not love all the political decisions that the government makes.  I do not love that much of the religion in Israel is Orthodox and as a liberal rabbi, I don't have much status.


I hope that as you celebrate this day and think of your own personal connection to Israel, that you will pause to think about the special role that Israel has played in the life of the Jewish people for thousands of years.  And...for those who have not visited Israel, I hope that you will consider a visit!!!


Yom Huledet Sameach, Yisrael!  Happy Birthday, Israel!




Rabbi Bruce Aft

Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), the national day of public mourning, memorializes those who gave their lives in defense of the State of Israel. The Israeli Knesset established the day before Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) as a day to remember and honor soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battled. It is a solemn day during which all places of entertainment are closed and two-minute sirens are sounded throughout all of Israel, one in the evening to mark the beginning of the holiday and one in the morning, prior to the nation’s public memorial ceremony.

Yom HaZikaron begins with an official ceremony at the Western Wall, as the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff. Places of entertainment are closed for the day by law. Radio and television stations play programs about Israel's wars and show programming that conveys the somber mood of the day.

As on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), an air raid siren plays twice in Israel during Yom HaZikaron. During the sirens’ soundings, the entire country comes to a complete stop: bulldozers are turned off, cranes hang empty in the air, and cars get parked on the sides of streets as their occupants stand silently alongside their vehicles. The first siren marks the beginning of Israel's Memorial Day, and the second is sounded immediately prior to the public recitation of prayers in military cemeteries.

Numerous public ceremonies are held throughout Israel. There is a national ceremony at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, where many of Israel's leaders and soldiers are buried. Many schools and public buildings have memorials for those from their community who died in Israel's wars.

The day officially draws to a close in the evening at the official ceremony of Israel Independence Day on Mount Herzl, when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff. Scheduling Yom HaZikaron right before Yom HaAtzmaut is intended to remind people of the sacrifice soldiers and their families and friends have paid for Israel's independence and security. This transition shows the importance of this day among Israelis, most of whom have served in the armed forces or have a connection with people who were killed during military service.

To observe Yom HaZikaron:

  • Host a ceremony at your synagogue or school commemorating the day, where you can read out names of fallen soldiers that can be found in the official Israeli database (you can ask a rabbi or a teacher to help with the translation).
  • Wear the special "Yizkor" sticker worn by Israelis during the day.
  • Stand at attention for two minutes alongside Israelis at 8pm Israeli time on the holiday.

Congregation Adat Reyim


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