Julie Auerbach holding program for event at pre-concert reception.


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Despite threats from Iran and flame-carrying kites from Gaza, Israelis were shopping for meat and accompaniments for their annual Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecues. Spectacular programs came to life, despite politics and divisions that split the country. As one commentator noted, such events can’t happen without a balagan preceding them. It’s just part of being Israeli. 

Here is a recap of the places my husband and I have been:

• On April 11, we huddled in warm blankets provided by Yad Vashem atop the high mountain site. The stories of the six Holocaust survivor torch-lighters were tearful, yet hopeful, and poignant songs and heart-felt prayers connected to the near extermination of European Jewry.

• On April 15, we attended a miraculous program, “Notes of Hope,” at Binyanei HaUma convention center. Arranged by Jewish National Fund United Kingdom to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, the event featured the world premiere of music rescued from the concentration camps. Through the resolute efforts of Italian musicologist Francesco Lotoro, more than 8,000 musical works composed by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps from around the world have been salvaged. The world renowned Ashdod Symphony Orchestra with musicians from the JNF UK-supported Bikurim Performing Arts School and the Yerucham Conservatory played selections from this collection, accompanied by dancers, singers and an incredible sand artist. 

• On April 16, we headed to Mount Herzl for the rehearsal of the big national Yom Ha’atzmaut event. And what an event it was. Jewish history in general and modern Israeli history in particular were depicted through technology, artistic design, music, dance and general Jewish ingenuity in front of an illuminated Theodore Herzl’s Tomb. Following annual ceremonial Knesset and Israel Defense Forces’ rites initiating the ceremonies, Sarit Hadad emerged to sing a touching memorial song as the names of all the people who had died in building and defending this country scrolled on the floor of the stage and behind her. 

A snapshot of Jewish history from wandering in the desert to Mount Sinai, from destructions to the building of Homa u’Migdal – wall and tower, from planting to harvesting to hi-tech Tel Aviv – it was all there in music, song, dance and drama. Thousands of illuminated Intel drones created the iconic kibbutz boy, then a dove and then a Magen David. Fireworks and marching soldiers with the flags of their units were also part of the 70th birthday spectacular. 

• On April 17, the country ushered in Yom Hazikaron. We joined a large group at Jerusalem’s First Station for songs interspersed with special animated movies from a Beit Avi Chai project.

• On April 18, I went to my volunteer position at the Jewish Federations of North America dressed in a white shirt and blue denim skirt. I sat outside the National Institutes building with employees from The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Histadrut, Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, JFNA and several other national organizations hearing moving speeches and songs. Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman and this year’s winner of the Israel prize, lit the ceremonial torch housed in an army helmet atop three rifles. Each speech referenced the destruction and the rebuilding, generations of families who fought to build Israel, Holocaust survivors who died in battles in 1948 leaving no one to mourn them and immigrants who continue to arrive. Sharansky, who best understands it, urged us to have “savlanut” (patience) and concluded with “Baruch l’netzach,” blessed forever.

Then we celebrated with friends at Yedidya with a special prayer service, using Israeli folk melodies, dancing, singing and a late-night barbecue. 

• On April 19, we celebrated with family at a barbecue following the traditional annual IDF fly-over.

May the week and years ahead be peaceful. Shalom al Yisrael.

Julie Jaslow Auerbach, a Jewish educator who lives part of the year in Jerusalem and part of the year in Shaker Heights, writes regularly about life in Israel for the Cleveland Jewish News.  

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