On a recent trip outside of Jerusalem, Israel,
two IDF soldiers,
from high above the highway,
were watching over us.
Jerusalem, Israel, for the Yoms
as usual was overloaded with events,
many this year influenced in anticipation of
50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem.
Israeli flags are draped down the sides of buildings.
These are at the Israel Museum entrance
where the dome of the Shrine of the Book can be seen.
Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Remembrance Day
for fallen soldiers and victims of terror,
began Sunday night with memorials throughout Israel,
and were accompanied by prayers, speeches and memorial flames.
The official state ceremony seen live on television,
was held at the Kotel, the Western Wall,
where President Reuven Rivlin lit the memorial light.
Sponsored by the Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin,
a memorial service was held at Givat HaTachmoshet, Ammunition Hill,
the site of deadly fighting to defend Jerusalem in 1967.
The program in English was live-streamed
and seen by over 16,000 people around the world.
All day Monday, tens of thousands of Israelis visited cemeteries.
This cemetery has many graves from 1948-1950,
the first years that Jews could not get to
the Mount of Olives due to the Jordanian occupation
and had to find new places to bury their dead.
On Yom HaZikaron, a man prayed by a grave.
A small Israeli flag with a black ribbon attached,
and small bunch of flowers, yizkor, remembers
those much too young who died in war.
The cemetery is next to Harel Garden
and Memorial wall, where this lone wreath was placed.
Walk around the memorial and you can see
that Gush Etzion is 16 kilometers from Cinema City and
the Israeli Supreme Court and government offices.
Tens of thousands came to Har Herzl Military Cemetery
during the day, to place flowers and to mourn,
remembering those lost to war and terror.
The crowds thinned at end of day,
and all headed home from the Har Herzl Military Cemetery.
But as the sun set,
on another part of Har Herzl,
the lights went on this huge stage,
celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day.
This year for the first time two non-Israelis were selected
with the honor of lighting one of the 12 memorial flames,
Rabbi Marvin Hier and Michael Steinhardt,
seen here before the official program began.
The show is telecast live and seen by thousands,
but watching on TV you could not see them remove
the circle of fire used in one production number.
It is an extravaganza with set rituals,
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat broke with tradition
when he joined with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein
to light the official flame of Israel’s Independence Day.
Seats were at a premium, the flag waving,
cheering crowd did not need a lot of encouragement.
Besides the two Americans, I wanted to see Rabbanit Chana Henkin
who was honored as one of the twelve torch lighters,
one for each tribe of Israel.
Dr. Ahmed Eid, an Arab doctor, was another honoree.
The program featured songs and military colors.
For this shot, no seat in the stands would work,
only this overhead camera would do.
Afterwards celebrations went all night,
in too many locations to list, with prayers, songs and dancing.
The next day at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence,
120 outstanding soldiers were honored in the morning
and in the afternoon rows of diplomats came,
along with one young Presidential grandson,
to pay their respects to Israel and hear the Prime Minister
and President speak on theme,”next year in Jerusalem.”
While the heads of consuls and foreign military were at Beit Hanasi,
thousands of Israelis were in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park.
Most of the green spaces all over the country were full of Israelis.
On the radio were announcements of crowded roads to JNF parks.
This family brought a couch to Gan Sacher,
which is one way to make your holiday mangal, BBQ, feel like home.
I know this is getting way too long,
but there was so much more,
like the Bible Competition, free museums, and performances.
festive meals, and those IDF flyovers and stunts.
Israel, after 69 years
as President Rivlin said, is young for a country,
under constant threat and repeated attacks,
yet has accomplished so much.
So it was,
from memorials to celebrating independence,
so much happening in Jerusalem.
The Passover and Easter celebrations are now over.
However, the spring holiday season in Jerusalem, Israel,
is far from over.
As soon as those Passover dishes are put away,
it is time for the roller coaster of emotional ‘Yoms’:
Holocaust Remembrance Day,
the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror,
which is immediately followed by
Israel’s Independence Day,
and this year is a big 50 for
As soon as the celebration of freedom ends
international guests gather at Yad Vashem,
for the official opening ceremony for Yom HaShoah,
to remember the 6,000,000 Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Each year 6 survivors are honored with the lighting of a memorial flame.
Here the honorees posed for a photo before the televised ceremony,
each with their own incredible story.
The lights on the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Plaza
serve as a hauntingly beautiful background at sunset.
Taps is sounded by a lone IDF trumpeter,
and the honor guard and all assembled stand as the Israeli flag is lowered.
Six survivors lit flames, aided by either a child or grandchild,
with some of the young relatives currently serving in the IDF.
The next day, there is another ceremony, less well-known,
which is held in the Knesset.
The Knesset entrance plaza has new landscaping,
where the flags fly all day at half-mast.
Israeli flags were featured on the Knesset pins given out to guests.
Again, six survivors lit memorial flames.
This survivor is 100 years old.
The President and Prime Minister attended and spoke,
and the Chief Rabbis added traditional Jewish memorial prayers.
In this televised ceremony as well,
a short video of the survivors’ harrowing stories was shown.
At the ceremony, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein,
led the reading of a list of names of those who did not survive.
The Prime Minister, President, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
and members of Knesset, all added names of family members
to the list of those who were murdered,
“To every person there was a name.”
from the retelling of darkness in the Chagall Hall of the Knesset,
one exits to the sight of the blooming roses in the Rose Garden.
Along with with flowers in bloom,
the Yoms are a time of blue & white Israeli flags,
huge ones down sides of buildings,
tiny ones blowing from car windows,
big ones on schools,
and small ones on a cafe table.
Signs are up for celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut,
Israel’s 69 years of Independence,
but first there will be Yom HaZikaron,
a time to remember those who gave their lives
with annual memorial flames displayed on buildings.
Jerusalem and Israeli flags are flying above the Jerusalem streets,
along with this new white flag,
which marks 50 years of the liberation of Jerusalem,
Hotels are booked out
and flights are hard to come by,
as tens of thousands plan to join in the celebrations of
filling the Jerusalem streets with more flags
and joyous days of celebrations.