Marked by more than a backyard barbecue and a fireworks display, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, commemorates the declaration of the state of Israel by David Ben Gurion on May 14, 1948.
That day still has special meaning for many people, including a group of Temple students who hope to inform the Temple community about the significance of Yom Ha’atzmaut.
On April 29, Temple Students for Israel plans to emphasize the message of unity during the day by hosting a celebration on Main Campus at the Bell Tower. The all-day event will feature an Israeli Army obstacle course, reading materials, T-shirt tie-dyeing and other activities.
Senior KateLynn Plotnick, vice president of Temple Students for Israel, said the celebration will show people what Israeli Independence Day means to her and her fellow members.
“Israeli Independence Day represents democracy, justice and freedom,” the public relations major said. “It represents a miracle. It was a miracle for the Jews to survive the Holocaust and to have their energy and motivation to build a new country. It is a miracle that Israel is the youngest country to have made so much progress technologically, socially and physically over such a small span of time.”
Each year, on the evening before Yom Ha’atzmaut, the speaker of the Israeli Parliament makes a televised speech. The presentation includes groups of Israeli soldiers who carry Israeli flags and other symbols of Judaism. The final piece of the ceremony is the lighting of 12 beacons to represent the 12 tribes of Israel.
“Israeli Independence Day to me stands as a constant reminder that only 61 years ago, the prayers and dreams of the Jewish people were answered and came true,” said Tom Harari, a senior liberal arts major and member of Temple Students for Israel.
“As a son of both Sephardic and Ashkenazi parents, I see Israeli Independence Day from a unique lens,” Harari added. “My father’s family fled Tunisia, while my mother left communist Romania. Both sought refuge and escape from lives as second-class citizens. What they found was the prayers of their ancestors answered: a Jewish state for the Jewish people.”
Temple Students for Israel aims to show other students and the surrounding community that peaceful things happen in the small Middle Eastern country. In light of recent attacks on the Gaza Strip, Temple Students for Israel is hoping to educate Philadelphians on the many positive aspects of the country.
“This day is portrayed as a celebration, but many Zionist Jews suffered and fought for years in order to declare independence and have a free Jewish state for the Jews to call home,” said Ziv Noah, a junior art major.
“The anthem proudly states, ‘the soul of a Jew yearns,’” Harari said. “Israeli Independence Day stands as a reminder, a symbol of what the Jewish soul has yearned for for more 2,000 years.”
Elizabeth Grossman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.