April 12, 2010 Yom Hashoah V’Giborah ע”שת
Yom Hashoah in Israel in effect began yesterday afternoon with preparations underway for the ceremonies marked for the evening and today. Preparations at Yad Vashem for the State sponsored ceremony and preparations throughout the country for various public and private events marking this dark period in our history. With an almost empty house greeting me, I watched the ceremonies on TV with Eitan in my eerily quiet home last night. We ate dinner together and listened to Netanyahu‘s and other‘s speeches, and watched the memorial candle lighting ceremony by survivors. I also spoke with my mother at the exact time when a chazzan, the military Cantor sang ‘El Male Rachamim’. As my mother and I listened to this chazzan’s rendition, (I placed the phone receiver to the TV), we reminisced of a time when my father sang the same ‘El Male’ at Yom Hashoa events in NY, with the same intensity and melodious renditions. It was very stirring. There was a military ceremony as well and I found it very symbolic that in place of the almost complete annihilation of the Jewish people, our chayalim and chayalot, defenders of OUR land, of OUR people, paid tribute to those lost in the Shoah.
Yom Hashoa is marked by complete reverence and veneration for the day. There are no television shows airing for the complete twenty four hour period, save for the ceremonies marking the day and for any program, documentary or movie relating to the Holocaust. Most stations show ‘renewal of programs on….‘ Programs will resume tonight or tomorrow. We studied poems and literature of the Holocaust today in Ulpan and participated in a small ceremony. As we made our way to the crowded entranceway of the Ulpan, the siren sounded. Loud, daunting, unnerving, siren, insistent, persistent in its purpose: A summon to stop what one is doing regardless of what it may be, and to stand united, in silence with the single purpose of remembering. It is a very powerful experience to see olim from every corner of the earth stand together in silence, a long silence, remembering. We then read poems and sang ‘Ani Maamin’. Needless to say, the tears flowed, my heart trembled. We then read another story, entitled ‘ Every person has a name’. I later watched as Shimon Peres read the names of his family lost to the Holocaust, in the ceremony with this very name. The loss of six million..a number difficult to comprehend. But a name is important. An identity. Identity for so many. We then sang Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel. I don’t need to tell you, if you know me well of the feelings that I felt and those around me felt. I cried and stood proudly, and understood clearly, why I am here, why I have chosen to live here in Israel. As our community aliyah coordinator, Shelley Brinn, so beautifully stated in an email to us yesterday,
‘These are the days (together with Memorial Day and Independence Day) which make you an Israeli in the fullest sense and during which people forget their differences and feel unified.’
Our first Pesach in Israel was wonderful, fulfilling, busy, exciting, exhilarating! There’s no arguing the point that recounting the story of the Haggada in Israel after making aliyah is indeed special. Michal and Chezky planned an exciting Seder with a game of Pesach Bingo. All enjoyed and some of us (i.e. me) became very competitive. And yes, I won!!!! They all continued to play, but I refused. No need to continue, I won!! We laughed, divrei torah flowed, discussions ensued, and everyone, including Dani, Barry, Yoni, David, Michal, Chezky, Eitan, Yechezkel, me and Meyer, contributed. Did we laugh!! We had frogs jumping on the table, dramatic intonations of the story of Yetziat Mizrayim, complete with dancing, falling off chairs, finger puppets, masks, you name it. And boy, did we eat!! I cooked up a storm, and really tried to ensure that everyone enjoyed and felt satiated. It is quite ironic though, that on our first Pesach in Israel, when we are required to have only one Seder, that we hosted a second for our guests. But we had loads of fun taking pictures of them while they drank, ate and discussed. And listening to Chezky lead a Seder for the first time filled us with pride.
On Chol Hamoed, our family and Dani embarked on a trip to Masada (Chezky had never been) and we all climbed up and down. Kudos to Michal for being the first one up, followed by Dani. I must say, the last time I climbed Masada, some 7 years ago, I did so with much more ease. Ok, I am getting older, I admit it, but I still climbed!! But I paid dearly the next few days with aching calf muscles. It was a hot day and we all had fun. We traveled from there to show Chezky the Dead Sea resort area and had wanted to go to the Ein Gedi water fall, but they closed early, so we save that trip for the next time Michal and Chezky come for a visit. The night prior to that trip, I hosted a family gathering for my first cousins and families who live here in Israel so they could all see Michal. It was a fun evening, complete with food, games, and laughter. Chavi came that day as well to see Michal (she is an extended family member) and helped me cook and prepare for the evening. Michal, Chezky and DanI went for a day last week to Be’er Sheva to the Air Force Museum, while Eitan and I returned to school and Ulpan. We all attended my cousin’s son’s bar mitzvah here on Friday and it was great to share their simcha with them. Yechezkel was home for the Seder and for the last day of Yom tov but had to remain on base for chol hamoed. He is loving the army though some things of course annoy him, but he is a proud soldier. He was commended last week by a major who was visiting the base and was extolled in front of 500 soldiers as an excellent soldier, one for all to emulate. Oh, it does a mother proud. I cried tears of joy and pride when he called to tell us this. He said, ‘mama, (he likes to call me mama sometimes) you’re going to be so proud of me’ and believe me, I am. He has a lot to aspire to now and his goal is to achieve the status of chayal mitztayen, excellent soldier. He makes us all proud.
Speaking of pride, my son in law Chezky decided upon arrival here (suggested by Michal of course) to begin calling us Imma and Abba. He previously referred to us as Mom and Dad. The first time he said Imma, I took a double take. I wasn’t really paying attention, but a second later, realized what I’d heard. It’s very endearing and we are both very happy. It doesn’t matter much really, but it is nevertheless endearing and sweet. And of course, to have my complete family around for Pesach, well there are no words to describe the joy, pride and happiness we felt.
Time passages. Fleeting moments. Moments to remember, to cherish, to safeguard. Our children grow and mature and in so doing, we think we’ll forever remember their youth, their sweet antics growing up. Where does the time go? When did Michal go from a sweet, funny, precocious young girl to a happily married woman well on her way to a successful career and happy life? When did Yechezkel grow from my asthmatic active passionate child to a soldier in the Israeli army? And, when oh when, did my baby, my Eitan evolve from a cute sweet, kind sensitive child into the confidant young man with the Israeli accent he is now becoming? I find myself pondering these very questions a lot lately and indeed, Michal and I discussed this very same topic one night while she was here. It really is amazing, this passage of time. We live, we laugh, we love, we grow, and time passes. Two weeks with Michal and Chezky, two weeks with a full bustling and hustling noisy household, and now, quiet. Michal, Chezky and Meyer are now in NY, our other guests returned to their routines, and Eitan and I to ours. Life returns to normal. I really do not like that time passes so quickly. I guess we all just need to make the absolute most of everyday, wherever we are and whatever we do.
To the millions lost in the Holocaust, to my relatives lost, to generations never to be realized, I dedicate this email to them. I hope and pray that the way I live my life and the decisions I’ve made along the path of life and those I continue to make, will be a testament to the way I was raised and I only hope that the world recognizes soon the danger of venomous, senseless, hatred. As Netanyahu said last night, Am Yisrael Chai.
Time passes. Make the most of everyday.
More next time. Miss you all!! (you too Meyer!!)