In the emotional roller coaster that is Yom HaZikaron, Israel''s Memorial Day to our fallen soldiers and victims of terror, followed immediately by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel''s Independence Day, there are many tears.
We attended the filming of Tuesday Night Live''s Yom HaZikaron shows. Grown men wiped away tears as we watched videos which told the stories of Mikey Levine, a passionate, driven lone soldier who was killed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006; and Avraham Dovid, one of eight boys and young men who were murdered in the Mercaz HaRav massacre in 2008 as they sat and studied Torah.
It is a great and weighty privilege to live in this county in which our Memorial Day means so much more than sale prices on mattresses and radial tires.
I grew up with the 4th of July of course, but learning about Yom HaAtzmaut was simply not part of the curriculum when I was becoming religious. I first heard the words Yom HaAtzmaut 20 years ago, from a friend who told me about a Yom HaAtzmaut program at her children’s school. Ironically, that same school, the one where we sent our children when we still lived in Baltimore, just announced that it''s closing its doors at the end of this school year.
So Yeshivat Rambam is closing its doors next month, and I, who first heard about Yom HaAtzmaut in the context of a Yeshivat Rambam celebration, am living in Israel and celebrating the real deal here.
The irony is not lost on me.
Each time our Shabbat table includes seminary students, here for the year studying Torah, we end up talking about their future plans. When they sit at my table in Israel and say, "I''m going home in X number of months," it makes me cringe, because they still see their homes in someone else''s country, even after having the gift of studying and living in Israel for the past academic year.
Some people promote aliyah by talking about the privilege of living in Israel, of being part of the greatest experiment in Jewish history in 2000 years. There''s no doubt that''s true.
But there''s also the shrinking of the American Jewish community. In some cases, it''s not just shrinking, it''s imploding. Aliyah isn''t just for idealists any more. It''s for realists whose eyes are open and who see what''s coming around the bend.
I am truly, unspeakably grateful to be a citizen of Israel.
In the early hours of Yom HaAtzmaut, I sat in a huge park in our community, eagerly anticipating the celebratory fireworks.
There were 15,000 people at the festival, live music, vendors selling all kinds of glow-in-the-dark chachkes and candies.
Sitting there, it was hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that this precious, special, now 63 year-old country is threatened. It all felt so festive, so joyful, so normal. If anything in Israel can be said to be normal.
All around the country are signs of national pride.
So many buildings decorated with flags.
Flags fly in roundabouts in Jerusalem.
Flags fly outside the grocery store.
Even the meat counter inside the grocery store displays its patriotism.
And at night, there are the lights that celebrate 63 years of a Jewish country.
It''s irrational, how much I love this country.
Happy 63rd Birthday to Israel and all the holy Jews who share this country with my family.
Ten months later, I still can''t believe I get to live here.