Monday, 30 April 2012

Israel's 64th Birthday

Last week in Israel we remembered and honoured our fallen heroes and then celebrated Israel's 64th birthday. On Wednesday it was Israel’s Memorial Day for the country's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism (Yom Hazikaron). It began on Tuesday night with a nationwide siren at 8pm, which sounded again at 11am the following morning. It is a very moving sight to see the whole country come to a standstill and respectfully bow their heads in memory. Cars literally come to a halt on the roads, the drivers get out and stand in silence. All day long programs are broadcast documenting the loved ones that have been lost, and memorial services are held throughout the country.
Israel's Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) begins the minute Israel's Memorial Day ends. It seems so strange to have this heavy day of mourning followed by such a joyous holiday but the message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence - the very existence of the state - to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
Independence Day is celebrated each year on 5 Iyar, which corresponds to May 14, 1948, the day that the State of Israel was proclaimed. On Wednesday evening we joined thousands of others in our local amphitheatre for a concert and fireworks. There was singing and dancing on the streets, pizza and falafel stalls aplenty. On Independence Day itself everyone packed their picnic baskets with lots of meat and Israeli salad, and headed out in search of the perfect picnic spot. The whole country was dotted with families outdoors enjoying the countryside.
There is no better way to teach children about the history of Israel than to be able to show them the actual locations of crucial battles. On Memorial Day we took the boys on one such trip, retracing the 1947-48 battles to keep open the road to Jerusalem.
Castel National Park is located on a hill known as Mount Ma‘oz, overlooking the main road to Jerusalem. The word Castel means 'castle' in French - the fortress was built by French Crusaders a thousand years ago and after the Crusaders left, Arabs lived in the area, in a village they called Castel.
During Israel's War of Independence Jerusalem became cut off from the rest of the country. Food, water, medicine and personnel were unable to get through and hunger became a real danger for the Jewish population there. It became clear that only the capture of points along the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would change the situation and at the beginning of April 1948, after several days of fighting during which many young men were killed, Israeli forces ultimately captured the village of Castel and it has remained in Israeli hands ever since.
As we sat on the top of Castel the strategic importance of the site was immediately apparent. A beautiful sunny day, we enjoyed a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Being there hopefully gave the boys a real feeling for how the Jewish soldiers felt at the time. Around the back of the hill were memorial plaques bearing the names of the fallen soldiers and that morning, it being Memorial Day, a service had taken place for the 84 young men who had died in the battle for Castel. Many of them came to Israel from other countries, and some had only been here for a few months. Our visit to Castel was a wonderful way to remember and honour our fallen heroes who died defending our beautiful country.
Here's wishing Israel many more meaningful Memorial Day and Independence Day celebrations filled with happiness and peace!
* One of the distinctive flowers for this season is the Red Everlasting, known in Hebrew as Dam Hamaccabim (Blood of the Maccabees). Just as in Britain the red poppy came to symbolise the blood of the fallen on Flanders fields in World War I, and so became the flower worn on Remembrance Sunday, in Israel the Red Everlasting has the same symbolism and is the emblem of Israel's Memorial Day.
I spotted these beautiful flowers on our visit to Castel and to see them flowering there, on that particular day, felt very special.

8 comments:

dottycookie said...

What a fascinating post. I am ashamed to say that my knowledge of history, both recent and more distant, is woefully lacking. Thanks for helping improve it!

Julie S said...

What a wonderful post. Your photos are making me nostalgic for California - similar terrain.

Congrats on your feature at All Things Paper, too!

Miss Val's Creations said...

Beautiful tribute to Israel's Memorial Day. It is amazing that everyone stops and joins in on a moment of silence. Sometimes I feel like my country forgets to take time to reflect on history since we do not have any holidays where life stops for a brief period. The Red Everlasting flower is so pretty. :)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, wonderful post for Israel's Independence Day. It is interesting to see various historical scenes and the pretty flowers. The Red Everlasting is a great symbol for the Memorial Day. Happy Sunday, enjoy your new week ahead!

Anonymous said...

Interesting and beautiful fruit or flower as a symbol! Thank you so much for including the Independance day for SEASONS! And telling something about the history:)
The year is easy for me to remember, because it's one year before I was born:)
(My guess this is a different page of your blog) Have an peaceful and happy week, Meredith! (is that how you like to be called?)

CountryMouse said...

Thank you for teaching me something new today. A very interesting post. I loved looking at your photos. It sounds like you have a wonderful day.

Mitzi said...

Wow, that Red Everlasting is awesome! Lovely post and images! Visiting from Seasons ;-)

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