Was this really me, committing to two weeks in Israel as a volunteer working on an Israel Defense Forces base? Completely out of character, but I was leaving my husband, children, and grandchildren for an experience beyond anything I could have imagined.
Monday was Memorial Day for the fallen – in the Israeli army, in the pre-state undergrounds, and in terrorist attacks. It is the day before Yom Ha’atzma’ut (to emphasize the connection), and is observed through ceremonies in schools and other public institutions, cemetery visits, and speeches by politicians. The sense of loss is immediate and inescapable as there is no one who does not have a connection of family, friendship, work, or neighborhood with at least one of the 23,000 fallen.
When I left for college my freshman year, I was nervous about exploring a new Jewish community. However, I immediately felt at home as I walked into my university’s Hillel’s Conservative Friday night services and saw the Siddur Sim Shalom, the prayer book I had grown up with.
History demonstrates that the events of the Holocaust served as an impetus for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. For this reason, Israel’s civil calendar first acknowledges Yom HaShoah, which commemorates those whose lives were lost during the Holocaust.
“Did you know?” asked my husband’s Israeli granddaughter, at 16 indignant and adamant. “Reform Jews don’t believe the State of Israel should even exist!”
My love affair with Israel began in 1972 when I journeyed for the first time with my immediate family. My parents had been for the first time in February of 1968, six months after the Six Day War. We also were there six months before the Yom Kippur War.