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 The Season of Yoms - Israel's Holidays

04/27/2023 10:18:33 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

Outwardly, it might appear that we have entered a quiet season post-Passover. I mean, other than the addition of the counting of the Omer being added to our Erev Shabbat liturgy, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on. However, we have just finished a very exciting and meaningful 10 days. Not in our Religious Holiday Calendar but in our Israeli Holiday Calendar.

It all began on the evening of Sunday, April 16th when our community commemorated Yom HaShoah at Shalom Austin in a moving program produced by Agudas Achim member, Phil Klein. In April of 2018, my first ever trip to Israel, I had the privilege of being in the country for this somber day. At 10 a.m. I was in a learning session with fellow camp educators on the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College (our Reform rabbinical school) when the siren went off. We stopped our session and stood for the two minutes of silence, reminding me of the observance of Remembrance Day (November 11, known as Veteran’s Day here) I participated in as a child in my classrooms growing up in Canada when at 11:11 we would stand for a minute of silence honoring all of our veterans.

Later that evening we were fortunate to attend a salon (living room) meeting where we heard from a second-generation Holocaust survivor. A remarkable woman who spoke to the generational trauma of being the child of parents who had both survived the Holocaust. What it was like for her to be raised in an atmosphere of great insecurity. Her parents never feeling like they could commit to owning a home, always renting, with the fear that everything could be taken away again while at the same time never talking about their time in the concentration camps.

A week later, on the 4th of Iyar, is another somber observance - Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day. A siren throughout the country is sounded at 8 p.m. to mark the start of the day. The day is commemorated with ceremonies in schools, visits to cemeteries, and another siren at 11 a.m. Our daughter, Rebekah, is in grade 12 at a high school in Hod HaSharon, Israel. On Monday afternoon she and her classmates went to a local cemetery and put roses on the graves of anyone whose life was lost during their military service or due to an act of terrorism. They did this so that, when the families came the next day, they would see that someone had been to visit their loved ones.

The transition from remembrance to celebration takes place with a televised Torch Lighting Ceremony, the official end of Yom Hazikaron and the welcoming in of celebration for Yom Ha’atsmaut, Israel’s Independence day. This year, 50 tickets were given to the army for this event to be handed out to lone soldiers. One made its way to our son, Jacob’s, base, and he got it. The photo associated with this blog post was taken by him upon his arrival at the ceremony. He also shared a few video clips with us in our family WhatsApp group chat and said it was an awesome thing to be able to attend.

From remembering to celebrating, it is an emotional 48 hours. I am so grateful to our Israeli community, here in Austin, who provides wonderful programming in partnership with Shalom Austin, to make these holidays special. On Monday evening of this week, I was fortunate to attend and participate in the Yom Hazikaron ceremony and it isn’t too late for you to celebrate Israel’s 75th birthday by attending the program being offered this coming Sunday, April 30th from 2-4 p.m. at Shalom Austin. For security reasons, registration is required.

I hope next year, when these holidays return to us, you will be sure to observe one of them. Maybe you will attend a community offering, maybe you will commit to reading and learning, or maybe you will plan to be in Israel to experience them firsthand. While the politics are certainly challenging, she needs us to support her to make the next 75 years be as remarkable as the first 75 have been.

Shabbat Shalom

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784