As soon as Pesach ends we enter a period of key annual events for Israel and the Jewish people. We experience the gamut of highs and lows, the intense mourning and expressions of remembrance on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron and then, in the blink of an eye, we transition to Yom Haatzmaut – we go from the depths of sadness to the heights of joy and celebration. This is a period of reflection on our history, heroes and hopes for Am Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael.
As an olah, although of over 50 years standing, this is always a time when I recollect my own Zionist journey, from Baltimore to Yerushalayim. The first time I thought of coming to Israel was in my senior year of high school when we were deciding where to apply for college. Although attending post-high school programs in Israel for women wasn’t the done thing in those days, my parents agreed to let me study in Jerusalem at Michlala, shortly after the Six Day War.
I arrived when the country was on a high, euphoric after winning the war, a triumph that seemed to be a modern-day miracle. I was carried along on the wave of Tikvah, positivity and creativity and I loved being a part of it all – an actor in the play rather than a member of the audience. I was realizing my goal of learning Torah in Hebrew in Israel and it was thrilling. I remember how meaningful it was when I studied Parshat Lech Lecha in Jerusalem :
"וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ".
The LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
I could relate to that pasuk in a new and very personal way as I could to the promise that G-d then made to Abraham:
"וַיֵּרָא יְהוָה, אֶל-אַבְרָם, וַיֹּאמֶר, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת"
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will assign this land to your offspring…”
I’ll never forget my first Yom Hazikaron in Israel. I went to Har Herzl with throngs of people, many of whom had lost children, siblings and parents who were soldiers in the war. These heroes made the ultimate sacrifice while defending their land and it was profoundly felt and appreciated by the entire country. We remembered them and mourned their loss. I realized more than ever before that Israel is our cherished and precious gift and that we are blessed to have the chance to contribute and build the country, to live our history and to be part of making history.
Rabbanit Malka Bina is founder of Matan - Beit Midrash for Women.