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Sunday, May 21, 2017

What is Yom Yerushalayim, and why do we need it?

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What are you up to this week???  Here in Israel, we’re still celebrating.  It’s like one non-stop party at this time of year, which was so bland back when we lived in Canada.  And this time, it’s one of the strangest holidays of all: Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). 

This is it – the Big 5-0, and the city is all geared up with so many different kinds of celebration.  Every school in the country, pretty much, is organizing tiyulim to the Holy City, and the place is mobbed with the usual tourists plus some.

I was there, with my son’s school.  We had a great time, but it was a heartbreaking time as well, and here is why:  Jerusalem is so far from being perfect it’s not funny.  Jerusalem is so far from being perfect that I could cry.

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At the seder each year, we sing, לשנה הבאה בירושלים / leshana haba’ah bi’Yerushalayim – “Next Year in Jerusalem.”  We sing this even if we are lucky enough to be in Jerusalem, because the last word is הבנויה / habnuya – Rebuilt. 

The Jerusalem that we have is a miracle.  It is a beautiful, busy, living, crazy balagan of a city and I love it.   I love the fact that the country just turned 69 years old, and its capital is only 50 – this shows that you can’t take even a capital city for granted here, since we had to do without it for 19 years.

Yes, a miracle indeed. 

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(photo credit: IDF via Wikimedia)

The Jerusalem we have today is truly many things… but it is not yet rebuilt.

This year, we’re celebrating 50 years since the liberation of Jerusalem from Jordanian hands, putting it in Jewish control for the first time in thousands of years.  But walking the streets of Jerusalem, the city does not yet feel free.

Driving past the Damascus Gate (Shaar Shechem), the Palestinian Bus Station, the police standing guard across from Givat Hatachmoshet, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa, the scars, mostly invisible, that have been inflicted on this city and its people since it was liberated… well, these things are more than heartbreaking.  They are like a slap in the face when everybody’s coming to celebrate.

But this is the reality.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Did you forget to call us on our special day? (Please call!)

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It’s not too late, in case you were thinking of picking up the phone.  You’ve still got a few more days.

What?  You weren’t??  Why not???

If you’d normally call someone on their birthday or anniversary, why not call all your Israeli friends and family on Yom HaAtzmaut and/or Yom Yerushalayim?

Go on, pick up the phone.  It’s easy, cheaper than ever; it only takes a few minutes, and means so, so much.

Usually when I speak to family back home in Canada around these special events, which always fall between Pesach and Shavuos, and I mention a holiday, they usually say something like, “Oh, yeah… it’s, um, is it Lag Baomer?”  (Which, to be fair, it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t.)

And they’re absolutely right to be ignorant about what’s going on here.  You really don’t feel Yom HaAtzmaut or Yom Yerushalayim outside of Israel unless you’re immersed in a tremendously Zionist context where people are going to extremes to deck the halls.  That “Oh, yeah,” reaction – well, I don’t blame them.  If you’re just going about your life, it’s a little much to expect you to remember a minor, modern holiday in a country far away.

And yet… every year, I wake up on March 1st knowing it’s my sister’s birthday.  There’s no sign of it in the weather, in the air, posters on the walls, sales in the malls, or fireworks anywhere I go.  (I picked this sister deliberately, and not my mother, who was born on Bastille Day, the French national holiday, or my other sister, who was born on Valentine’s Day…)

And because it’s my sister’s birthday, I think about her, plan a gift (okay, I don’t always get around to sending one – I’m not the BEST sister!), send her some kind of e-greeting, make a phone call.  I sort of think about her all day, and the amazing things she does that I never could.  It’s her special day.

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(See?  Very special!)

Now, you’ll probably admit that we’re not limited to ONE special day per year per person.  People also phone loved ones on their anniversaries, Mother’s Day, graduations, and other special occasions, so this isn’t limited to birthdays at all.

So why not extend the love to include, oh, an Independence Day (or two)?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Things that are weird in Israel #18:What’s with all the HAMMERS? (Yom HaAtzmaut Edition!)

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If this is a hammer, it must be… Yom HaAtzmaut!  Yes, it’s time for our country’s national Hammer Day celebration, the day when children young and old head out at night to buy huge inflatable HAMMERS.

Great, big, blow-up hammers in all sizes, shapes, and colours… okay, just kidding.  Not ALL colours.  Just blue and white.  Blue and white hammers to proclaim freedom throughout the land.  Everywhere you go, kids are bopping one another with these things.  Am I missing something???

Now, I have never seen giant inflatable hammers for other occasions, but I figured it couldn’t be a unique Israeli thing, so I went and Googled other holidays.

I started with the obvious:  “Fourth July hammer.”  Let’s see how the Americans do it.

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Not with hammers, apparently.  Okay, there IS one inflatable in this batch:

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Getting even more specific, I tried “fourth july hammers inflatable.”  I figured this one couldn’t miss.

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A little more on the money, but really… this is a disappointingly generic lot.  Is “Bang, Bang, Bang, High Striker” the message you want to ring out loud and clear on YOUR Independence Day??

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Being a proud and patriotic Canadian – we’re turning 150 this July 1st! - I figured that if independence and hammers were a natural pairing, Googling ““canada day” hammer” would be sure to find something.

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