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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Mourning and Celebrating in Israel

Many years ago Debra and I lived in the same community and our sons went to school together. A few years later Debra , her husband and family made to Aliyah to Israel. A few years ago Debra and I reconnected on Facebook and through her posts I have appreciated seeing the way that she appreciates the art, the culture, the history and the sheer excitement of her life there. Because of her absolute joy and the fact that she seems to live each day to the fullest in Israel, I asked her to write about her life in Israel. Debra has written about a particularly full and emotional time in Israel, when the Holocaust is remembered, when fallen soldiers are honored and when Israel's independence is celebrated. I am grateful for her contribution to this blog which brings us all to her side as she marks these occasions.

Thank you, Debra!


I am sitting on my mirpesset (porch) in Jerusalem and watching the airplane flyover rehearsal, as Israel’s air force prepares for their yearly magnificent airshow which will take place on Thursday - Yom Haatzmaut.

It is hard to describe the emotions that we in Israel experience this time of year. We have barely had time to put away the last of our Pesach dishes and we move right into Yom Hashoa V’Hagevura, a day that commemorates the murder of 6 million Jews, along with the heroism of those who survived. By 6 PM the country shuts down, restaurants and movie theaters are closed, as well as most retail stores. At 8 PM, the official commemoration is marked by a ceremony at Yad Vashem and around the country.

This year, My son Eitan and I participated in a special program called Zicharon B’Salon- Remembering in the Living Room. This is an intimate gathering with a survivor who shares his/her story. The room was filled with soldiers, students and others of all ages. We listened as the granddaughter interviewed her grandmother, who was 12 years old when the war broke out.

The following morning we joined a ceremony sponsored by the Jerusalem municipality and then stood on Jaffa Rd as the siren went off. We stood silently with dozens of others- no traffic, not a sound other than the siren.

On Tuesday evening we will gather with hundreds of other people in our neighborhood as the local youth movement leads a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron. We will stand silently at 8 PM a siren is sounded. These young people, high school age, will then read the names of those young men and women who lost their lives in battle and in terror attack. We will sit with the parents, siblings, grandparents and friends.

The switch from sadness to celebration is so dramatic. We will participate in a special minha service where a Keil Malei- a prayer for the departed will be sung. This will be followed by Maariv and festive Hallel- singing and dancing.

We mourn, we celebrate. This is life in Israel.

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