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Remembrance and Celebration 

In Israel, Israeli Independence Day is preceded by a day of memory. All those fallen in wars and acts of terror are memorialized. There is a service at Har Herzl in Jerusalem and a moment of silence throughout the country in which everything comes to a stop. Everyone in Israel knows someone who has died; everyone in Israel has a family member who has experienced a tragedy. Memorial Day here can feel more distant, but in Israel it is fresh, visceral, and real.

Then, after the memory and mourning comes the celebration. Raucous partying explodes everywhere. It is a terrible day to ride a bus, because even the bus drivers are celebrating…For reasons I don’t understand, everyone buys these plastic inflatable hammers to bonk each other. The whole country takes a moment to exhale, to appreciate just how great and amazing it is to have a Jewish State.

Over the last few years, the Conservative Movement in Israel has had a ceremony in the morning of Israeli Independence Day at the Egalitarian section of the Wall. They sing Hallel in celebration of the miracle that is Israel and read with trope the Scroll of Independence, Israel’s Declaration in 1948. By reading that document they remind themselves of the founding values of the State. Among them: To be a Jewish State. To offer equality to all its inhabitants, Jew and Arab alike. To reach a hand of peace and prosperity to their Arab neighbors. In other words, to build something special among nations.

This year, I want us to remember and to celebrate. So I invite you to a special evening in partnership with Beth Am, Etz Chayim, and Keddem. We will offer a memorial prayer to all those who have died in acts of war and terror, most especially this recent wave of violence. We will chant the scroll, and we will ask ourselves: What is the Israel we hope for in 10 years? What is our agency in bringing that Israel about? And then we will dance! (Israeli dance, that is).

This year we need to remember. We forget sometimes the immediacy of violence in which Israelis live. We forget how much they experience loss and fear on a daily basis. Israelis need to know that we care and that we love them. Remembering, marking Yom HaZikaron, feels especially important this year.  At the same time, we need to explore alongside Israelis how we find balance between Jewish values and democratic ones. We need to remind ourselves of the founding values – and questions- of the State.

And finally, we need to dance. Israel is in a terrible constitutional crisis. And yet, Israel is often in some crisis. What we are trying to do is incredibly hard from challenges both internal and external. Sometimes you have to exhale and celebrate. The challenges remain and they will wait for us. But by dancing, we renew our vigor to face the challenges with confidence and love.

I hope you can join me this coming Tuesday evening at 7 pm in our Main Sanctuary, followed by dancing and a birthday cupcake in our Social Hall at around 8:15.


Shabbat Shalom and Happy Israel Independence Day!

Rabbi David Booth

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784