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Reflections on Israel's 76th Independence Day


Dear Friends,

As we approach Israel’s national days this week, memories of my childhood flood back, like the vivid image of passing through Jerusalem’s Jaffa gate to buy a Jerusalem bagel. Unlike the denser bagels found in America, these were airy, covered in sesame seeds, and wrapped in Arabic-printed newspapers. Growing up in Jerusalem meant encountering such unique scenes, from bagel sellers to self-proclaimed Messiahs.

As I reflect on these personal moments, I’m mindful of Israel’s context for thecommemorations. On Sunday evening, we honor fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, followed by Monday night’s celebration of Israel’s 76th Independence Day. This year, however, our jubilation is tempered by a sense of unease. Israel is embroiled in conflict, and tensions simmer within American Jewry.

Yet, this tension isn’t new; it’s woven into the fabric of these national observances. Each year, we grapple with the challenge of transitioning swiftly from mourning to celebration. But amidst the turmoil, we find solace in the recognition that our emotions needn’t bemutually exclusive.

This year, our remembrance holds added weight. Not only do we remember soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for Israel, some of whom were the children of our friends or grew up in the US. But this year, we also remember hostages still held captive, their plight resonating deeply within our community. Here again is the juxtaposition, even as wegrieve, we strive to acknowledge Israel’s resilience and innovation, qualities deserving of celebration and praise.

In times like these, expressing gratitude may feel daunting. But we’re thankful for thejourney that brought us here—for the visionaries who dreamed of a Jewish homeland, for those who tirelessly defend Israel’s safety, and for the enduring bond between Jews and the land of Israel.

This profound connection is poetically captured by Adi Keissar, whose upcoming visit to the JCC promises inspiration. In her poem, “IF I FORGET THEE,” Keissar beautifully articulates her bond with Jerusalem, expressing a desire to etch the city onto her very being.

As we navigate these turbulent times, let us hold fast to hope. May the prophetic words of Isaiah—of nations laying down their swords—ring true in our lifetime. And may the joyous vision of Zion, free from sorrow and strife, become our reality.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Moriah SimonHazani