(This is a very moving letter. I hope Israel never gets to the point that we have where solemn holidays become just a reason to picnic and party instead of being a time of remembrance.)
LETTER FROM ISRAEL
Last week we saw the last of the rains, later than usual, and today we are having hot, dry winds from the desert. This is a great opportunity to wash any sweaters or jackets which must be laundered by hand and have them dry quickly. Mutty, Shira, and the children are heading to the Sea of Galilee for 2 days, and Chocolada has just realized that they have abandoned her here. A dog’s life.
Our spring holidays are almost over: we were at Mutty’s for the Passover Seder, and all of us were at David and Mia’s for a barbeque the next day. Holocaust and Heroism Day is a solemn day, as you can imagine. There are local ceremonies, and names of known victims are announced at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and broadcast. A siren announces 2 minutes of silence. All pedestrians stand at attention; drivers exit their vehicles and stand outside. When I reached the library, situated in the clubhouse of the “Central European Immigrants Society” (they don’t use the word “German”), they were just ending a small ceremony and lighting candles.
A week later is Memorial Day for those who were killed in Israel’s wars and for terror victims. Sunday night, the eve of Memorial Day, we went to a ceremony at the nearby neighborhood where Fridel grew up and where his father’s name is on the memorial . Children from all the neighborhood schools participated, as well as the neighborhood Rabbi and relatives of the fallen. Each community has such a ceremony. On Monday morning another siren, and ceremonies at all the Military cemeteries. We go to the town of Zichron Yaakov, where Fridel’s father is buried.
Monday evening Memorial Day ends and Independence Day begins with fireworks. At a ceremony in Jerusalem the flag is raised from half mast, and is passed from one army unit to another until next Independence Day. On Independence day every National Park, beach and backyard is full of people barbequing, hiking, swimming, etc. Morning television features the annual International Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth. In the evening the prestigious Israel Prizes are awarded in the fields of History, Jewish Studies, Music, Art, Law, Science, and Life Work. This televised ceremony ends the holiday officially.
Each year the rightness of the sudden switch from ”mourning to celebration” is debated. However, the consensus is that it is necessary to remember the terrible price that we have paid for our independent state.
Last month we were in Tel Aviv, not my favorite place, for a study vacation. The highlights were a visit to the building where the State of Israel was declared in May, 1948, an exciting backstage visit at the Israel Opera and meeting three charming sopranos, and the modest house of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. A theatre performance by the “Please Touch” troupe which consists of blind and deaf actors was unforgettable. At the end the audience was asked to go up onto the stage and talk to the actors via their helpers. Everyone did!
View of Tel Aviv from Jaffa
Declaration of Independence room, chosen because high windows afforded protection from bullets.
Restored building on Rothschild Boulevard. The city is encouraging restoration of period buildings.
One of Tel Aviv’s parks. This one features groups of columns. Each group contains names of soldiers killed in a specific war.
Metal images outside Tel Aviv Art Museum.
Susan Dalal Center of the Arts, housed in a restored school building.
“Grandma’s Ice Cream.” It was good, too.
Nostalgic Toy Museum.