The contrast in atmosphere is simply striking. One day is somber, filled with tears and touches you deeply in your soul. The following day is filled with laughter, food and excitement. It’s as ifYom Kippur is suddenly the day before Purim. As you experience these two days, you discover how intricately entwined they are.
For us, the intensity of Yom HaZikaron is light years away from the barbecues and furniture sales that mark Memorial Day in America. From the moment that we heard the siren, that marked the start of the day and tears started to flow around us. We watched a moving ceremony conducted by the Israeli scouts as Yom HaZikaron began. Flames licked the signs created by the scouts as we sat quietly huddled together in the cool Jerusalem air. Beautiful, haunting music filled the air and the names of the fallen were read out loud. The follow morning, we visited Har Herzl (the equivalent of Arlington Cemetery) and experienced the somber nature of the day as we traveled through a subdued Jerusalem.

Smoothly, Yom HaZikaron gives way to Yom Ha’atzmautjust as Shabbat transitions into the rest of the week duringHavdalah. Tears are replaced with laughter and the entire area around our hotel transformed into a giant street fair. Music filled the air and people (including our students) start spontaneously dancing. Everywhere you turn there is life and light.

One place where this transition is most acutely noticed is at the top of Mount Herzl. In the morning, it was filled with families, friends and even strangers collectively saddened in Israel’s most important military cemetery. Yet, in the same place where we were crying is also where Israel was later marked as a nation, the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut on a stage surrounding the grave of Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.

This is because Yom Ha’atzmaut cannot exist without the sacrifices that we mark on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. This is a message that we have heard not just on Yom HaZikaron, but in many of the sites that we have seen and will see during the trip. Israel’s freedom and existence were not handed to us on a silver platter. The lives lost, whether as soldiers killed in the line of duty or terror victims cut down unexpectedly, are the price that we pay as a larger Jewish community for the existence of the state of Israel. The depths of our sorrow on Yom HaZikaron, as we remember these losses, help us soar in happiness on Yom Ha’atzmaut. One without the other simply isn’t as meaningful.

Shabbat Shalom,

Dr. Ari Yares
Head of School

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