What Happened on Israel Independence Day 76 Celebrated in Jerusalem?

In Jerusalem this past week we celebrated Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s 76th Independence Day immediately preceded the Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

However, Israel 76 was not like those in the past, with an ongoing war and hostages held in Gaza.

Every year, the official state Yom Hazikaron ceremony was held at the Kotel, Western Wall Plaza, and was again broadcast live on television with the Israeli President speaking.

One of the hardest battles for Jerusalem in 1967 took place at Givat Hatachmoshet, Ammunition Hill.

Today it is a museum and memorial for Israeli soldiers who fell in 1967, and it was the setting for a Yom Hazikaron ceremony hosted by the Michael Levin Base for lone soldiers and b’not sherut. This was one of many ceremonies throughout Jerusalem this year specially designed for English speakers.

Robin Lubin, mother of Rose Lubin h”yd, who was murdered while on guard duty in the Old City, spoke movingly of her daughter’s commitment and and service fighting in the south after October 7, before she returned returning to Jerusalem where she was murdered by a terrorist.

Not all the fallen soldiers were Jewish; Sufian, a Druze Israeli, was eulogized by Efraim Abrams, his partner in the Combat Engineering Corps. They were the first armored bulldozers to enter Gaza.

Rabbi Leo Dee said the Yizkor and Kaddish, then spoke of his wife and daughters, Lucy, Maia, and Rina h”yd, who were murdered last year as they drove to a holiday family get-together on Passover.

In the cold and wind, 900 people sat and appreciated the impact of the impressive memorial service broadcast live online for those who could not attend in person. More Yom HaZikaron photos HERE

Multiple large musical prayer services and transitions from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haatzmaut ceremonies in Jerusalem made it hard to decide which one to attend. We opted for a smaller meaningful local Israeli one in Modiin, where the youthful flag dancers had practiced to perfection, or close enough.

The Hidon HaTanakh, International Bible Quiz, was held as in the past at the Jerusalem Theater on Yom Haatzmaut morning with the 16 international contestants down to the last eight finalists.

Then down to four, the final two teens tied for an exciting finish. Last year two girls tied. The big difference this year was that the President and Prime Minister did not attend, so there was no visible security, no metal detectors, and no standing in line outside in the sun. However, you needed a ticket to get into the auditorium, as every seat was filled by family and friends. Impressive was how the audience respected each participant with applause whether the answers were correct or not. More photos HERE

From the Jerusalem Theater, it was a race to get around the corner to Beit Hanasi, The Israeli President’s Residence for the annual Diplomatic Reception. I love those hats lined up on the table, this year placed so that Herzl could gaze at the display of the international military officers in attendance.

While the world media makes it sound like Israel is alone and isolated, it was uplifting to see so many different uniforms and countries represented.

International military attaches and their spouses in traditional dress were willing to pose for a photo.

Smiling ambassadors from far and wide were attending the reception.

Ok, not all were smiling all the time, but they accepted the President’s invitation.

The annual official posed photo for Israeli Independence Day 76 was taken as usual.

The President spoke and there was a carefully planned program to reflect the current situation.

Everyone entering the Beit Hanasi grounds passed this display of yellow tee shirts, one for each hostage.

The food served was outstanding, for more on Beit Hanasi for Diplomats see HERE

Did you know that May 15 is Declaration Day? Israel Forever Foundation and Elana Heidelman want to make sure the world knows and for the second year hosted a special event – on May 15, 2024.

The speeches from the Ambassadors to Israel from the Philippines, Guatemala, and Uraguay were warm and positive. More Declaration Day HERE

And finally, to close off another busy week of the ‘Yoms,’ there was a special opening at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem of the “KUMA” exhibition, the work of Eitan Rosenzweig, hy”d, the gifted artist and poet, was only 21 when he was killed in battle in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, even at such a young age, he left behind a treasure trove of artistic creation. His talent and explosive creativity are evident in his works, with his masterpiece KUMA being an award winner in high school.

The material found in his sketchbooks was amazing! More photos from KUMA HERE

To close out a week of highs and extreme lows, the flowers and flags of the Jerusalem streets, displayed in front of the home of a fallen soldier, with the sign – AM YISRAEL CHAI!

Next week is Lag B’Omer. Time to cut the tall dry weeds and see if people will follow the instructions not to light fires. Here’s to hoping for a safe and quiet week on the Jerusalem streets.

From Jerusalem a Week of Loss and Memorials

In Jerusalem, we have begun the annual roller coast emotional time of the YomsYom Shaoh, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha’atzmaut going from mourning those lost in the Holocaust and fallen in Israel, followed by Independence Day.

This year after the October 7 Massacre with 132 hostages still held captive in Gaza by Hamas, mourning is more intense and personal, and celebrations more tempered to mark 76 years of independence.

The flags at the entrance of Har Herzl Military Cemetry were at half-mast as Yom Hashoah was to begin.

As usual, an honor guard stood for the official opening ceremony of Yom Hashoa at Yad Vashem.

The Israeli flag was lowered and the trumpet sounded as all stood for the televised program with 6 survivors, each honored to light a torch in memory of the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust.

Photographers were around to capture the moments as usual in the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza.

But I had already taken a photo earlier of what was new, the yellow chair symbolic of the hostages placed next to the seat of former President Reuven Rivlin in the row for dignitaries.

The crowd as usual extended well back in the plaza.

The torch lighters as usual stood in quiet and dignity waiting to be called upon to light the torch.

As their impressive stories were shared in videos, one for each survivor, I often wondered what they were thinking, standing there before hundreds of people with thousands more watching on TV.

The torches were lit, the President and Prime Minister spoke and the memorial ceremony by the Chief Rabbis went on as in the past, without interruptions.

This week the Israeli flags have been spotted popping up on cars as usual.

But not usual was the gathering before Yom HaZikaron at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

Survivors of fallen soldiers were asked to share their stories with the President and his wife.

Sadly more babies and young children were in the audience that day than usual.

The next day a special showing of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Screams Before Silence” was shown. The hour-long video is available for free on YouTube. The retelling of the horrible events of sexual abuse on October 7 is done with respect toward the victims and should be mandatory viewing for all deniers.

The panel afterward included the director and others involved in the important production.

Outside, the Beit Hanasi back garden was being set up for Yom Haatzmaut’s annual ceremonies.

Flyover rehearsals were heard over the Jerusalem streets. Not everyone was pleased by the loud sounds of the planes, but they went so fast that I could not get a clear image. However, the sounds of cars honking in appreciation were evident after the first ones.

Cemetery in Gush with view of military graves

There are too many new graves this year, and the numbers go up too often, the number of 1,541 has changed again with five new soldiers killed in Gaza.

The posters for “LetThemGoNOW” and yellow ribbons increase daily.

But to end the week of memorials, well into the night, Eden Golan represented Israel well and with dignity in the Eurovision musical competition held this year in Sweden.

She showed that even by coming in fifth place one can truly shine as a winner. Under exceptional pressure from anti-Israel mobs, she performed with class and proudly held the Israel flag overhead.

We have a choice on Yom HaZikaron to be broken or proud, Eden has chosen to be proud.

Check out Colors and Contrasts in Jerusalem after Passover

As soon as Passover is over, the Israeli flags start flying over the Jerusalem streets.

This year the roller coaster of emotion should be even sharper than usual.

More blue and white flags are seen over the Jerusalem streets than in the past.

All the Pesach, Passover food is gone.

One day the table was set for a holiday meal.

The next everything was upside down.

And the next day, everything was stored away until next year.

The Jerusalem cafes were filled and people were again sitting on the streets enjoying the weather and freshly baked cakes and breads.

Construction workers were back, blocking and hopefully one day soon fixing the Jerusalem streets.

The signs of summer and no rain with dried weeds,

add contrast to the colorful spring flowers.

However, the weather this time of year can and does change day by day with rain in the forecast.

Compared to what is seen in the media, life in Jerusalem is often a contrast.

Western Wall on Passover 2024 for Priestly Blessing

Over the week of Pesach, 500,000 people were reported to have visited the Kotel, Western Wall.

Today is Orthodox Easter and Christians are celebrating in the Old City.

A young Muslim couple finished their meal at the cafe where our business group met this week.

One sight at night in Tel Aviv was impressive, the building lit with not only an Israeli flag and “Together we will win” but also a yellow ribbon indicating the wait for the return of hostages.

New to the Jerusalem streets, posters with faces of fallen soldiers. Their families want Israel to not stop until Hamas is defeated so that their children’s lives were not sacrificed in vain. This group’s protest after Shabbat received much less coverage in contrast to a protest in Tel Aviv.

New signs are up over the Jerusalem streets for Yom Haaztmaut, Israel Independence Day.

“Our Independence is with our Unity” is a new slogan for year 76.

However, first is Yom HaShaoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, observed this year beginning on Sunday evening, May 5, 2024. At 8:00 pm a siren will sound.

Tomorrow at 10 am, there will be a two-minute siren in memory of the victims, not the same sound as an air raid siren, but one constant tone. Air raid sirens have a tone that goes up and down.

No one knows what will happen next.

However, if you walk along the Jerusalem streets and look, not down at your phone, you will see the beauty in nature. The contrast of new growth and colors as summer approaches after a winter of war.

It’s a good time to remember the traditional ending of the Pesach seder, “Next year in Jerusalem!”