Between city night concerts, parties, fireworks, hikes, and Mangalim, Yom Ha’azmaut is celebrated in many ways. People all over the country have curated their own unique traditions for Israel’s national independence day, and we all celebrate together, on the land that we call home.
I never made the choice to make Aliyah, and who knows where I would be today if my parents hadn’t dragged me halfway across the world when I was 5. Nonetheless, a choice that my parents made in 2006 has shaped me into who I am today. The choice may not have been mine to make, but the possibility today for Jews all around the world to come to Israel has only been possible since 1948. Before the establishment of the state, “making Aliyah” was a foreign term, and Yom Ha’atzmaut is the annual reminder of that.
When I ask my American friends when the United States declared independence, the year 1776 sounds so far away, and not a single person who witnessed it is alive today. The same simply cannot be said about Israel. This country is built from the blood, sweat, and tears of our grandparents and great-grandparents, no more distant than that.
The month of May (or the Hebrew month Iyar) is a month dedicated to our roots and a reminder of who we are. It begins with holocaust remembrance day, as we honor the 6 million who have lost their lives to the Nazis, tell the stories of those who have survived, and moved on to build the country that we have today, with the last bit of energy they had left. A week later, we remember the soldiers and terror attack victims, that have lost their lives and still are, protecting our country, and making a statement to the world with just their existence. The very next day, we collect the mourning and we celebrate. We celebrate what we have, and how unfathomably lucky we are to have it. We honor the fallen and we live for them, by celebrating the cause that they died protecting.
So what is so important about Yom Ha’atzmaut? It reminds us who we are, it reminds us that with each breath we take, we are breathing the air of the holy land, something so precious, that thousands have lost their lives so that we can have it. From their sacrifice blooms the command for us to live.
השם יקום דמם.