How I Spent My Erev Yom Hazikaron (Sounds 4th Grade-ish, Yeah?)

Tonight began Yom Hazikaron, the memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. In case you missed my recap in 2007 or 2008, go take a few minutes to catch up. What more can be said? I told a friend tonight that while you could make a case for any one of several days as the “best day to be in Israel”, it’s hard to top the back-to-back combo of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. I mean, hey, Purim and Rosh Hashana are special but you could theoretically have a great experience elsewhere. What the hell compares to “Zika” and “Atzma”? (I feel like these days need nicknames, if only because I keep saying them over and over again and they’re not short words.)

My Ulpan teacher this morning gave us a sheet with a number of options of things to do in Jerusalem and I don’t think you can really go wrong as long as you do SOMETHING. I decided to go to the Kotel for the national tekes (ceremony). Shimon Peres spoke as did the Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. While we were pretty far away, it was just being there as part of the community…and the Kotel at night is always special. Here’s a quick peek…

I often am torn between recording the moment for you people and BEING in the moment for myself. You can’t record everyone standing frozen during the siren while also appreciating it. Once you remove yourself from it, you’re out. After a few minutes of thinking about it tonight, I said “screw it, I’m recording Hatikva at the Kotel.” It’s Hatikva at the Kotel!!! Five seconds before the singing began, dead goes the battery. I’d say it was a sign from G-d but let’s be honest, I should have charged the darn thing. So no video for you (or me)….sorry.

Afterwards, we continued to Kikar Safra, a square near the Old City, for shira b’tzibur (public singing?) I wrote about it here in one of my first posts ever. B’tzibur, I mean b’kitzur (ha ha ha), it took place in the courtyard of a British Mandate prison turned musuem (a little bit surreal entering the building.) Several hundred young people (somewhere between one and two thousand, I suppose?) congregating, not making a peep, singing solemn songs while the words are displayed on two large screens. “Sad karaoke” as one person put it.

I don’t know how to describe it if you haven’t been. I didn’t know the majority of the songs but it’s not about that….it’s about the feeling of being part of something. Something that’s important. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Everyone needs to spend one year in Israel. I never met anyone who regretted coming here, just those who didn’t. Make it happen, people. 95% of you can do it (leaving a little wiggle room for those of you with superduper legit reasons).

Ok, it’s 2:09 AM, and I’m zonked. More tomorrow, I’m sure.

Update, 7:21 AM: If you want to listen to Galgalatz and their sad songs throughout the day, you can do so here. Lots of classics from Israel’s history about the army, its wars, mourning, etc.
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