An IDF soldier prepares for the official Independence Day ceremonies on Mt. Herzl.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
“We must be back for the Bible Quiz” called out my husband as I was making arrangements for last year’s Independence Day celebrations. How distant it was from our first celebrations to where we grew up in Australia.
Rushing to Bnei Akiva to attend the special Independence Day celebrations after school was one of my earliest memories of how we celebrated this day in Melbourne. The evening involved singing Israeli songs, eating falafel and humus in a pita and finally having a special mifkad (a type of assembly) where, bursting with pride, we sang the Bnei Akiva anthem, concluding the ceremony with “Hatikva.” My parents – Holocaust survivors – saw no problem with the late night it generated during the middle of a school week.
After having made aliya in 1970 the Independence Day celebrations took on a completely different aspect for us. Suddenly we were seeking fellow Aussies with whom to celebrate. The military parade had been canceled. Thus our next priority was seizing the opportunity to catch up with our Aussie friends on a non-working day in our hectic six-day working week. We usually met in Jerusalem for a typical Aussie picnic replete with beer, cricket bats and BBQ. Most of us bought Aussie flags along with us although all of us had Israeli flags waving on our cars.
The ensuing years dictated that we spend more and more social time with the parents of our children’s friends from our local school. Thus yet another twist in our Independence Day celebrations was where we found ourselves taking overnight trips organized by “one of the parents of” on Independence Day. These “one of the parents of” became one of our closest friends. Thus here we were in Israel celebrating Independence Day with Israelis who were and indeed remain to this day some of our closest friends.
Distances and time changed the other Aussies’ outlook on Independence Day, too, as most of them experienced similar changes and found themselves veering more toward their children’s social nucleus, which eventually became theirs as well.
This was, of course, until our children grew up, joined the IDF or did their National Service and began celebrating Independence Day with their own friends. They continue to do so, married and with their own children. Meanwhile, we have made somewhat of an about turn and try to celebrate alternate years with our Aussie friends and our Israeli friends. Up until a few years ago, the Aussie Independence Day remained characteristically the same – BBQ at someone’s house – except that the groups were considerably smaller. Sometimes, the children would pop in with the grandchildren for all to enjoy. Our Israeli friends continued to celebrate Independence Day in a tzimmer (country guest house) and then spend the next day hiking a trail together with thousands of other people.
One year we even managed to combine both groups and have a BBQ at our home in Ramat Gan. Both sets of friends had already met at our smachot (celebrations) throughout the years so were not unfamiliar with each other. For me, this was the ultimate – combining both sets of friends in our incredible country.
Now we are more selective as we have decided that we are prepared to forgo the experience of being stuck in traffic on the drive back in the afternoon. Instead we prefer to stay at home or venture somewhere close by. The most important factor in the planning of our day is “as long as we are back in time to watch the Bible Quiz” on Israeli television. We sometimes combine both groups of friends or join or host whoever is available, notwithstanding different family constraints.
What better than to see the Bible Quiz as the day’s most important event? Here we are in the land of the Bible, surrounded by warm and loving friends whose various backgrounds have intertwined. It is here that we meet to watch the young generation be challenged by non other than the Bible! The excitement and dynamic atmosphere that this generates is truly a reflection of what the country symbolizes for us today. With God’s help we will overcome all of our troubles which are no less challenging, and rise to new heights in order to enjoy many more Bible Quizes and celebrate on Independence Day.