Can we reassess the way our community celebrates Israel?
Is it possible for us to reimagine Yom Ha’atzmaut as a Jewish festival, a chag, rather than a secular birthday? What if our Israel celebration walked from Yom HaShoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut? What if the days in between these two monumental events in Jewish history were filled with reflection, anticipation, activity and celebration leading up to the commemorative day itself?
We would suggest a congregation might establish for itself three overarching goals for Chag Haatzmaut programming.
- Am Chofshi B’Artzenu. Participants will hold the code to understanding and appreciating the place of Israel in Jewish life. Israel represents the unique convergence of three values: Jewish Peoplehood, Freedom, and the Land of Israel. They are best encapsulated in the line from Hatikvah: Am Chofshi B’Artzenu. The exploration, celebration, and critical examination of these three values are what unites all Jews in their connection to Israel.
- The wonder of the existence of the State of Israel. While one would never suggest that the Holocaust led to or caused the establishment of the State of Israel, one can nevertheless not underestimate the Pesach-like narrative from 1945 to 1948. The entire Jewish people experienced a movement from the darkest and most powerless moment in our history, to the establishment of our independent State. This momentous shift in the place of Jews in the world will be firmly in the consciousness of participants.
- Pride. Pride is not necessarily an identification with only the outstanding. Pride is also an expression of identity. (Think about what “Gay Pride” has taught us about these nuances.) In this sense “I am Proud of Israel” does not always have to be an expression of my opinion about what Israel does, but an expression of who I am. Reaching a proud identification of Israel in my Jewish life calls for programming that enables deep intimate engagement with Israel’s vibrant complexity, and that helps locate Israel’s issues in their Jewish identity.
Here we will present seven sample programs for teens, families, and for adults in your congregation that we suggest might meet these goals. You should feel free to use or throw away, to alter or to adapt according to your assessment of your congregation. All the programs are presented online, and as downloadable pdfs. The main reason for this is so that you can add your own comments to each program on the online page so we might endeavor to incorporate them into the program itself.
Finally we offer a possible approach to your Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations, with a list of activities that might enliven and deepen your Israel engagement.
The Nine Days’ walk from Yom HaShoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut, as introduced by Avram Infeld:
For in-depth exploration of our Think-Practice Document, please feel free to download Makōm’s exploration of Chag Haatzmaut, here, and a shorter article here.