Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From darkness to light, and from mourning to festivity מאפלה לאורה, ומאבל ליום טוב

I chose to title this post such because it describes, to some extent, the intense experience of observing יום הזיכרון (Memorial day for Israel’s fallen) and then transitioning into the joy of יום העצמאות (Israel’s Independence Day), and is also a quote from the ‘Kiddush for Yom Haatzmaut’, compiled by the Religious Kibbutz movement (of which Ein Tsurim is a member) and chanted on erev yom Haatzmaut by Kobi Ableman at Yedidya.

As I often do, I’ll take a few steps backwards a return to where my last blog entry left off. This past Friday, I woke up early for Shacharit, went back to sleep, and then ate breakfast around 8:45. I relaxed for most of the morning, and then because I’m not the biggest fan of the dairy pasta lunch on kibbutz, I took a trip to into Kiryat Malachi with my roommate Matt and had a delicious Shawarma lunch at ‘Shawarma shel Shuki’, my first since Pesach. I went back to Kibbutz and relaxed again for a little while, called home, and got ready for Shabbat. I davened in the Kibbutz Beit Knesset, which was a very quick and unelaborated service, but still included Yedid Nefesh and the traditional nusach. I ate dinner in the kibbutz dining room, with a number of people from our group, as well as my friends Cynthia and Daniel who are in B’er Sheva, and Shira who is studying at a seminary in Ramat Beit Shemesh. After dinner we had an Oneg with Marzipan Rugelach that our madrich Mike had brought back from Jerusalem.

Shabbat morning, I went to tefilllot as usual, and then had lunch with my host family. We had some beautiful weather in the afternoon and I spent part of the time reading outside on the grass. This week I decided to go to the late Mincha service at 5:30, because following tefillot there was a shiur taught by one of the kibbutz members about saying Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut. It was very interesting, especially the fact that I could tell that I was on a Kibbutz, because of the fact that the members had no problem chiming in with a comment or objection no matter what the teacher was in the middle of. By the time the shiur was over, it was time for seudah shlishit, and later, Maariv and Havdalah.

Sunday was supposed to be a regular work day, but four of us were given some random jobs to do around Massuot instead of the usual pipe laying. Shosh and Aviva were assigned to spray paint signs, and Tani and I were given the task of marking every six metres on a line of steel rope by fastening a bolt, all for the tree-planting division of the Moshav. To make our job a little harder, the 100 metre long rope was pretty tangled, and two hours later we hadn’t made it too far. We took a mid-morning tea break, and afterwards we checked out Shosh and Aviva’s spray-painting. I even tried my hand at it, and it was a lot of fun! We spent the rest of the morning, especially after Shosh and Aviva finished their task, with a combination of trying to work on the rope, taking pictures, and visiting the small horse stables which Aviva had discovered on the Moshav.

We returned to Kibbutz, and chilled for the afternoon, culminating with dinner and Mincha.

Around 7:30, the mood began to change as the country prepared for the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, the Memorial Day for Israeli soldiers who died for the state, as well as the recent addition of victims of terror to those we mourn. Shortly before 8:00 we joined the entire kibbutz for their Yom Hazikaron service, which began with a 1 minute siren heard throughout the country. The ceremony included prayers, songs, poetry, the lighting of a torch, two personal stories, and one of the most moving parts, a slide show on a large screen showing pictures of all 153 soldiers killed this past summer. It was a very moving טקס, and our presence was an important sign of us becoming a part of the kibbutz community, as we joined with them on this sad occasion. After the kibbutz ceremony, which was about 45 minutes long, we came together as a group for our own commemoration, which included watching a movie about Alex Singer, an American who joined צהל and was killed in Lebanon in 1987. Alex also had a personal connection, as he had become part of the community and had planned to make his home on Kibbutz Ein Tsurim. We concluded with a discussion and Maariv.

Just as with Yom Hashoah, all of the entertainment channels on TV went off the air for 24 hours. However, the Knesset Channel is unique in that the entire day it screens a list of names of those who died for the state, from before 1948 to today

The next morning we davened Shacharit as a group, and shortly before 9 we departed for Jerusalem and the Har Herzl Military Cemetery, where the nation would focus at 11:00 as a siren is sounded throughout the country. We managed to get to Jerusalem in about 45 minutes, driving by way of Ein Kerem, but when we got off of the bus and started walking towards the cemetery, it was packed with people, most of them family or friends who had somebody to visit at the cemetery, though there were also a few groups such as ours who had come to pay their respects. I walked around for a little bit and spent a while in חלקה ד, the newest section of the cemetery which contains the graves of those killed this past summer in Lebanon, including Michael Levin z”l, a בוגר נתיב (Nativ Alumnus). Although I was not able to get close enough to watch the official state ceremony, it was broadcast via loudspeaker throughout the cemetery, and you can listen to my recording of it here.

After the ceremony ended, we took a bus back to Beit Nativ and had a surprisingly tasty fleichig lunch, followed by a video and short program related to the day. We were finished around 3:30, and spent a little time downtown with some friends, picking up a special siddur for Yom haatzmaut from one of the bookstores. Later on, I took a bus down to Talpiot, where I stayed with the Moshe family again. After catching up with Janet and having a light dinner, I walked down the street to Yedidya for a service marking the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haatzmaut. We began with Mincha, which was followed by a short memorial service. To mark the transition from sadness to the joy of independence, we joined in a collection of songs of peace and hope, including אלי אלי, עושה שלום, לו יהי, שיר הרעות and לו יהי. We then began the Yom Haatzmaut service with psalms of thanksgiving and the recitation of Shehecheyanu. We then heard a beautiful drasha by Rabbi Michael Melchior, the head of the Meimad political faction, the religious wing of the Labour party. We then had a festive Maariv service including full hallel, which was followed by a nice Kiddush. Because I was pretty tired and also relatively far away from downtown, I went back to Janet’s and called it an early night, though at one point I walked out to the Tayelet and took a look at the beautiful view of Jerusalem at night.

In the morning, I returned to Yedidya for a festive holdiday Shacharit, which included Hallel, and a special Torah reading and Haftarah. Later in the morning, Nahum picked me up and we drove downtown to Beit Nativ, where I took part in the Yom Ha’atzmaut tradition of watching the finals of חידון התנ''ך, the International Bible Contest on TV. It was really neat to watch, for a number of reasons. First of all , as someone who loves Tanach and was in chidon for two years, it was an event that was made for me. It was also especially neat to see Joshua Satok, who many of you in Toronto know, a graduate of Associated and a student at CHAT, compete in this prestigious competition. Although he didn’t win, he can in very close (about 6th place), competeig against many Israelis, and deserves a huge Yasher Koach. Another neat thing was that two of the people sitting in the honorary dais were those I had heard speak this year, Ze’ev Bielski, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, who spoke to us during leadership week, and President Yitzhak Navon, who I had the privilege to hear at the Israel Bonds Rabbinic Conference back in January with Abba. One last neat thing about the Chidon was all of the different ‘celebrities’ who asked questions in the first televised round. These included a 92 year old window-washer who has been washing Jerusalem’s windows since 1947, the daughter of former Mayor Teddy Kollek z”l, and the wife of captured soldier Ehud Goldwasser. As per tradition, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert read the final question.

The culmination of my Yom Haatzmaut experience was the annual Nativ Barbecue to end all barbecues, with tons of good meat, and more importantly time to hang out with the rest of Nativ. As barbecuing (מנגל – Mangal in Hebrew) is the semi-official way to mark Yom Haatzmaut in Israel, the entire park of גן העצמאות was filled with different barbecues. We returned to Kibbutz in the early evening, and after davening mincha and maariv, our staff ordered us a pizza dinner!

חג עצמאות שמח – Happy 59, Israel!

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