For me, two distinct moments defined this year’s Yom HaZikaron-Yom HaAtzma’ut continuum:
Yom HaZikaron 5774 - Monday, May 5, 2014
OS (=Our Soldier) stands at attention in one of Israel’s military cemeteries.
Although he’s wearing his dress army uniform, a scraggly mustache and beard obscure part of his face. Normally, this would be against military regulations.
But today, no one minds. In the IDF, the Jewish army, religious soldiers are exempt from shaving during the Sefirat HaOmer period.
As the siren wails, OS looks down solemnly at the grave of his former elementary school classmate, a hero who was killed while defending Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.
T. stands a few feet away. He too was one of OS’s former classmates. The night before, T. appeared on national television. An officer cadet, he was chosen to be part of the honor guard participating in the Yom HaZikaron torch-lighting ceremony at the Kotel.
Yom HaAtzma’ut 5774 - Tuesday, May 6, 2014
The entire Shiputzim family – including OS, who’s home on a short leave for the holiday - is driving along Kvish 6, the Trans-Israel Highway, on the way to the gorgeous Shomron for a wonderful BBQ (i.e. a mangal or al ha’eish, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) replete with great food and great company.
Kvish 6 is a marvel of Israeli engineering and ingenuity. A toll-road without any toll booths to impede traffic or serve as ugly blots on the scenery, its tunnels blend seamlessly into the Biblical landscape.
The Israeli flag attached to the car window whips merrily in the wind. Blue and white flags lining the side of the highway wave back, and electronic signs wish the travelers a happy Yom HaAtzma’ut.
Inside the car, the usual sibling squabbles (“He’s looking at me!” “She’s touching me!”) are surprisingly absent.
Perhaps the lull in the hostilities is due to the fact that everyone is simply enjoying the rare family outing. After all, in recent years, there have been very few occasions when the entire family was home and able to go on trips.
Or perhaps it’s because the Chidon HaTanach (the International Bible Quiz) is playing on the radio. Like most Israelis, the Shiputzim family has a close connection to at least one of the young contestants, and watching or, as in this case, listening to the Chidon is a cherished Yom HaAtzma’ut tradition.
What small yet meaningful moments defined Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaAtzma’ut 5774 for you?