Masa Gap Year programs holds an annual commemorative service that deeply infuses personal stories into the start of Yom Hazikaron. Tears flood with awe of soldiers that made Alyiah to protect their home, that were killed while saving civilians in terrorist attacks, who donated their lives in exchange for saving their unit from a bomb, women whose leadership and joy of life reverberated throughout the battlefront. I shiver not from the cold of changing weather in Latrun, but from my understanding of nationhood pulsing through my body. The next day at Har Herzl, we silently stand for the siren along with the entire county. The tombstones read the Jewish names and young ages of the greatest people I will never meet. Their valor and strength tightens my love of Israel as I hear stories from their families of the lives they lived.
If one were to play word association, I would bet American Memorial Day answers would include BBQing and huge sales. But in Israel, the prayer to elevate the memory of our bravest individuals wins. And it is no coincidence that the calendar accurately gives credit to the foundation of our country right before the celebration of what their accomplishments build.
The elation of Yom Haautzmaut brings on a different set of tears. I think back to how passive I felt in Poland as a Jew, needing to hold close to my Israeli flag for comfort. Here in Israel, in the streets of Neve Aliza, the yeshuv Rabbi Berglas and Vicky established, in the circle of my school, I dance with my flag; with my heart waving in the air. Dizzy from spinning with my love for Israel, I pause and simply hold up the flag, watching it dance in the breeze. Her movement does not depend on me, I am just the lucky one honored to uplift her in her splendor. We sing praise for the miracle of independence in our generation, enumerating the involvement of our creator reaching out to us, beckoning us to seize the purposeful opportunity. My gratitude blooming in understanding of our romantic relationship with Hashem twirls around my blue and white tie dye skirt and as I breathe in my first Yom Haautzmaut in the Eretz, I smile in excitement of many more to come.
Being part of the chain of Judaism means that my segment is stronger than previous; not from my own merits, but from the sheer gravity of earlier sacrifices. I can casually sit on the walls of Chevron- the same exact stones that scared the 10 spies, punishing my ancestors in the desert to die out a generation and wander for 40 years before taking another look at the wall with a refreshed view- not because of my own trust in Hashem helping me conquer a land, but because they struggled to trust Hashem. My fortune in existing during Jewish independence crowns me with the fascinating question of what are we free to do. I yearn to live up to the gifts I am honored to inherit and giggle with excitement for my upcoming adventure working in a village for disabled adults in the Negev. Serving my home is the only way I can imagine starting my life here, singing my gratitude and working for future links. My tombstone will echo the Israeli pride in giving for the nation and my placement in history will dance in the songs of praising the opportunity.