‘From mourning to joy” is a slogan in Jewish life.
In Israel, it’s an annual ritual.
Every year in spring, the Jewish State marks Yom HaZikaron, its memorial day for fallen soldiers, then, as the sun sets that night, it gives way to Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.
Every year, Israelis cry tears of sorrow, visiting army cemeteries through the country and listening to speeches about the ultimate sacrifice (an Israeli woman, above, chats on her cell phone on Yom HaZikaron in Tel Aviv). They cry tears of happiness, watching fireworks displays and torch-lightings, and giving thanks for the land that the soldiers’ blood guaranteed (Jewish youths, top, wave the Magen David at the Western Wall on Independence Day).
Every year, the blue-and-white of the Israeli flag flies over ceremonies of loss and ceremonies of gain.
This year, on Israel’s 61st anniversary, Israelis marked the two-day holiday as in the past, praying that no more families will join the ranks of those dancing and singing on Yom Ha’Atzmaut without their departed sons and brothers and fathers.
“Unfortunately, Israel remains under threat,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in his Independence Day message last week. “An Iranian regime that is feverishly pursuing nuclear weapons brazenly calls for our destruction. Terror organizations on our southern and northern borders grow stronger by the day.”
In a time of economic downturn, many Israeli cities sponsored scaled-down festivities, barbecues took over parks and backyards, military bases were opened to visitors, and El Al put on a first-ever air show, four of its Boeing jets performing intricate maneuvers in the sky over the Mediterranean coast.
In Givatayim, near Tel Aviv, religious and secular Jews celebrated together in Wohelin Square. “We are celebrating with Gilad Shalit in our hearts,” one reveler said, referring to the kidnapped Israeli soldier. “Independence is not something you take for granted.”