We are in a unique time of year for the Jewish people. It is a time when we both commemorate and celebrate as a worldwide Jewish community. We are in the middle of a special ten-day period – one filled with anticipation and various emotions, while at the same time mixed with awkwardness. Although these days are based on secular holidays in Israel (added to the Jewish calendar following the establishment of the State of Israel), they are a part of every Jewish community and, I hope, every Jew.
Last Sunday, we commemorated Yom HaShoah to honor those who perished in the Holocaust. Our community had a special gathering organized by the Oregon Board of Rabbis. It was an opportunity for the Jewish community to come together and remember.
This Sunday evening, the 4th of Iyar, will be Yom HaZikaron, the Israeli Memorial Day. This day is to remember the 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have fallen since 1860 in their struggle for the State of Israel. Yom HaZikaron is different in its character and mood from our country’s Memorial Day. For instance, almost 25% of the country’s population will visit military cemeteries. And, for 24 hours (from sunset to sunset) all places of public entertainment (theaters, cinemas, nightclubs, etc.) are closed. The most noticeable feature of the day are the sounds of sirens heard throughout the country twice. At those times, the entire nation comes to a "standstill,” including all traffic and activities. The first minute-long siren at 8:00 p.m. marks the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, and the second, lasting two-minutes, will be heard at 11:00 a.m. on Monday.
Although Yom HaZikaron is Israel’s Memorial Day, it is a day for all Jews to remember and think about those who have served the State of Israel and our people. In addition to the fallen soldiers, we should take the time to think about the thousands of bereaved family members. Our community, just like in Israel, will mark Yom HaZikaron this Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. with a special program at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center led by Israelis who live in our community.
Following the conclusion of Yom HaZikaron, comes the celebration of Israel’s independence, Yom Ha'Atzmaut. The official "switch" from Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha’Atzmaut takes place a few minutes after sundown with a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, in which the Israeli flag is raised from half-staff (due to Memorial Day) to the top of the pole. The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence - the very existence of the State - to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
Israel's Independence Day is celebrated on the 5th of Iyar (this date corresponded to May 14, 1948), which is the Hebrew date of the formal establishment of the State of Israel, when members of the "provisional government" read and signed the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv.
For American Jews, celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut is one way to express solidarity with the State of Israel and to strengthen our connections. And, for Jews around the world, joining with Israelis celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut has become a concrete link in the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and to one another. Come and celebrate Israel's 66th birthday on Monday, May 5 from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center – there will be fun activities for everyone.
We have all seen the bumper stickers that read: Think Globally – Act Locally. These three occasions are clear examples of this. They are not about a specific Jewish organization nor movement. They are about the collective Jewish experience. On these days, just as we do on Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and other religious holidays we have the opportunity to observe globally, yet act locally.
PS – On a separate note, congratulations to Hillel International (we have Hillel at the University of Oregon and Greater Portland Hillel) for their latest initiative, Jewish College Bound. This new resource helps connect college bound Jewish students to the Hillel foundation at the university they will be attending in the fall. Jewish College Bound was developed by local Hillel professionals and further developed by Hillel International to make it easier for Jewish students to self-identify with their local campus, learn more about local & national opportunities and initiatives, and to help with Taglit: Birthright Israel travel. Think about it, the campuses will know these students are coming and welcome them as they step on campus.
Please click here if you have children enrolling in college for the 2014/2015 academic year and beyond. And, feel free to share this email and link with your friends so Hillel can know the Jewish students heading that way!