Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, passed in a most profound way, I believe. Israelis mostly abided by the “instructions” to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Our citizenry believed that the government was instructing us properly so that our personal health and that of our entire family could be guarded to the maximum. I feel, because of the government’s directions and our efforts, that the two days were movingly observed and celebrated in an exciting fashion.
We were very careful in our Jerusalem independent living home, Bayit Balev, as had been the case even before the tensions arose. On April 29, I was in my room watching the International Bible Quiz for Youth. The ultimate winner, a young woman named Ruth Cohen, showed how she stood up to the challenge in the finals, face-to face with her opponent, a young man named Moshe Glidai.
After Rachel missed the second or third question and fell behind, she demonstrated her resilience which you normally see in a sporting event. She kept her cool, rallied and answered every other question and won as her opponent “wilted” a bit.
As that event concluded, a knock at the door. When I opened it, seven staff members were singing and danced into my room, placing on my table a complete meal for lunch which had been prepared, I knew, with love.
I do believe that the most exciting moments when the acrobatic quartet of IAF jets flew over the hospitals in the country were so special. They saluted all the doctors, nurses, technicians and orderlies who worked around the clock.
In our hearts, we felt such a sense of gratitude for them all.
I watch CNN daily or nightly almost every day, except Shabbat, to follow the news around the world. I saw that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio came under fire for singling out “the Jewish community” for violating social distancing instructions.
De Blasio had been referring to the funeral on April 28 of Rabbi Chaim Mertz, 73, attended by hundreds of followers of Tolaat Yaakov in Williambsburg, Brooklyn.
But on Yom Ha’atzmaut, I was particularly moved by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attitude of gratitude to essential workers – from doctors and hospital personnel to bus drivers, street cleaners and the police.
“These people realized that they were needed to keep the city going,” Cuomo said. “I salute over a million people who carried on and did not say, ‘Let someone else do it since I can stay in my bed and warm house.’ These are the kind of people who make New York great.”
How moved I was here in Israel to hear Cuomo’s words. We too wanted essential workers to protect us, even though we were sad that policemen and policewomen, doctors and nurses had to work.
We wanted to sing from our balconies and to show we loved those who sang for us. Families could not go to the hospitals or to any of the facilities where the elderly are protected, including my wife and myself.
Therefore, we looked to the Heavens because the planes swept the sky carrying our thanks to all those who were working so hard. They have kept us alive and protected us. We praise them with all our hearts!
The writer is a retired rabbi from Atlanta living in Jerusalem