Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut

The past two days have been full of sites, learning and fun! We spent the day in Tel Aviv, first visiting the Ayalon Institute, a site that was vital in the history of the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel. Beneath the ground, and right under the nose of the British, a factory was created for the production of 9mm bullets for the Sten submachine gun, which was the personal weapon of Palmach fighters. The factory lay eight metres below the ground and was the size of a tennis court. The task was assigned to the members of the Scouts A group, who were joined by others, a total of 45 young men and women. The site operated under complete secrecy from 1945 until 1948, a period in which over four million bullets were produced.

We then visited the historic Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, in the very room that David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Most of the exhibits there are original, while some have been reconstructed in precise detail, transporting the visitor back in time to that incredible event. Visitors can also hear the original recording of the ceremony.

Lunch and shopping was next in Nachalot Binyamin Market with arts, crafts, pottery, and jewelry. The teens enjoyed shopping and eating all the great food there and purchased a lot of special items for themselves, family and friends.

As the sun set, Israel went into a day of mourning for Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day). We attended a special memorial program last night at the Latrun army base to hear stories from the families of men and women who had lost their lives. It was a truly touching memorial and one that brought the reality to us of what Israelis have endured and how precious life is, and we should cherish every moment we have with those we love and care about. In observance, a siren is blared throughout the country at night and the next day.

“During the second siren in commemoration of the over 23,000 that lost their lives due to terror, and defense in the great state of Israel, there was an apparent disconnect between the different groups. While some cars stopped and pulled over, others swerved through traffic. Some cars even honked at us as we stood in a confused silence. After the siren ended, our tour guide explained to us the not so easy truth that not everyone in Israel respects the fallen. Even our security guards whom are native to this land noted on the lack of respect we saw. It was an eye opening and difficult moment.” – Deena Notowich (Tennessee) and Brett Robinson (Nebraska)

We spent today in Jerusalem and visited the Jewish quarter, King David’s tomb and the Kotel (Western Wall), located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It was one of the four walls that King Herod built to support the 1,555,000 square foot plaza on which the Temple once stood. At Ammunition Hill, we learned about its history as a fortified Jordanian military post in the northern part of Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem and the western slope of Mount Scopus. It was the site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six-Day War. While we were there, we also heard from Dov Lipman, an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) between 2013 and 2015.

We returned to our hotel an hour ago from one of the most exciting nights of the trip – celebrating Israel’s Independence (Yom Ha’atzmaut)! The streets were packed with wall to wall Israelis and visitors, all cheering and dancing in the streets. The teens loaded up on food and desserts and they managed to frequent every vendor and Judaica store. It was fun seeing all the goodies they purchased and hearing about the great foods they tasted.

This is a poem that I received recently from one of our teens, Josh Silverstein (New York)

Each Adult Killed is a life Forgotten
Each Child Killed is a life Unknown.

Each Camp Experienced is moment of meaning and pain
Each Camp Experienced is a moment of hatred and anger.

Each Camp Seen is a destruction of innocence Each Camp Destroyed is a false innocence seen.

Alone, Each life is filled with meaning
Together, Each life creates a community.

“All lives” is meaningless
“Each life” is meaningful.

Remember.
Love.
Hope.

Each Adult Killed is a life Forgotten
Each Child Killed is a life Unknown.

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