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  • Mitchell Israel

Yom Hazikaron, Yom Haatzmaut, and IRAC

Shalom!

In the entirety of the Jewish calendar, there are no more polar opposite holidays than this week’s commemoration of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day to commemorate its fallen soldiers, and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. These two days have completely opposite feels, a day of sadness and mourning into a day of celebration. In some ways, this represents many things about Israel, Israeli society, and relations to Diaspora Jewry.

Israel declared Independence in May of 1948, just three years after the ending of the greatest conflict the world had ever seen, World War II. As the war raged, the Nazis murdered millions of Jews, as well as gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, and others, under the cover of war, in the greatest atrocity ever committed by humans against other humans. This close proximity links closely to Israel’s commemoration of these two holidays, as one of the Jewish people’s darkest moments in history was followed by the return to their homeland.

As Israel developed as a nation-state, it too had moments of joy and sadness. Many of these moments have been on issues of gender discrimination, racism, and religious pluralism, IRAC’s major issues. In my time at IRAC, we have had victory in some cases, and defeat in others. Avodah Ivrit was dismantled, but there is still racist sentiment, especially against African migrants. We won against El Al in the case of Renee Rabinowitz, but we are facing adversity when attempting to display our rights on flights advertisements at Ben Gurion Airport. All of these issues come to one point: that it is important to commemorate how far Israel has come in 70 short years, while acknowledging that the road ahead is rough and rocky, but we will get through it. As Rabbi Tarfon said, “It is not your duty to complete the work, neither are you free to desist from it”(Pirkei Avot 2:16).I look forward to the observance of both of these Israeli holidays, and seeing the country go from mourning to celebration.

Until Next Time,

Mitchell

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