Last week I returned to Israel from a hasbara mission with Keren Hayesod in Australia. In Australia, I met with the incredible Jewish communities that live in Perth and Sydney. One week after my return to Israel, we were in the midst of Pesach, one of the holiest of holidays, and a story all about the return of Jews to Zion. This theme of returning, going back to our roots, understanding our identity and expressing our freedom as Jewish people, is one that a group of Australians participating in March of the Living will experience first-hand.
March of the Living is an extraordinary initiative that returns Jewish communities to Europe to visit concentration camps in Europe and other sites of persecution during the Holocaust. Using this similar principle of never forgetting our history of enslavement in Egypt each year at Pesach, March of the Living asks participants to remember and commemorate our Jewish history and our past. But March of the Living is much more than remembering a past of persecution; it is about celebrating our present and future. The trip ends in Israel, where March of the Living participants spend an entire week in Israel experiencing a prosperous, modern Jewish State, as a homeland for the Jewish people that once precariously existed without one.
Many of these Australian March of the Living participants are descendents of Survivors and that is why it is particularly exciting that this group will spend Yom Ha’atzmaut 2011 in Jerusalem, celebrating Israel’s 63rd Independence Day at Ammunition Hill - Giv''at HaTahmoshet. At Ammunition Hill they will participate in the 4th annual LiveHatikva broadcast – an event that aims to bring together Jewish communities around the world on Yom Ha’atzmaut through the simultaneous, real-time, singing of Hatikva. Ammunition Hill is a particularly significant site as it represents the freeing of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. It was one of the fiercest and deadliest battles, and more than four decades later, the Jewish people are still able to freely sing Hatikva - a song about Nefesh Yehudi homiyah.This year, the event will be broadcast live at 10:45 AM Jerusalem time, from both Ammunition Hill in Israel, joining a stadium of more than two thousand Australian Jewish participants in Sydney, with groups in Perth and Melbourne. Watch the broadcast live on JLTV (Jewish Life Television) website. It will also be streamed in real-time on the Live Hatikva, Zionist Council of Australia and March of the Living websites.
The Jewish people have a history of persecution and it is imperative that we never forget what has happened and continues to happen - especially with Gilad Schalit who has been captive for nearly five years. But we must remember freedom as much as we remember our enslavement and feelings of freedom can only occur when we have hope. We must hope that one day, we will all live freely, without persecution. This is the reason we sing Hatikva or ‘The Hope;’ it serves as a reminder of our past, but more importantly, we can use it as a way of expressing our hopes for a bright and liberated future as a Jewish State for the Jewish people.