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Tel-Aviv beach on Israel's 60th birthday.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


Airforce display Tel-Aviv Beach, Israel's 60th.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


Tel-Aviv beach.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.


Parachuters landing on Tel-Aviv beach. Yom Haatzmaut Israel at 60.
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

 
MEMORIES OF ISRAEL AT 60- YOM HA’ATZMAUT IN JERUSALEM AND TEL-AVIV

By Rhonda Spivak, November 1, 2009

As Israel prepared to celebrate its 60th anniversary last year in May 2008, I joined a handful of Jewish friends living for a year in East Jerusalem on Sala-a-Din street.  On the streets in downtown East Jerusalem, shopkeepers said “Welcome, welcome.”

In East Jerusalem, there was no mention of Yom Ha’atzmaut. At the Azzahra restaurant,  I picked up a copy of “This Week in Palestine,” and “Nakba 60.” These pamphlets listed events taking place around the world  to  mark the 60th anniversary of the ”Nakba”, or “Catastrophe” which Palestinians believe occurred on the day Israel was born.  On leaving the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice a map on the wall of  pre-67 Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, with the word “Palestine” written all over it.

An Israeli bible scholar Isaac Khalimi later told me “The storefront right in front of the Azzara restaurant used to be a centre of terrorist activity during the second intifada.”

The next evening, I walked with my friends through East Jerusalem, and the Damascus Gate to reach the Western Wall for the official Memorial Day Ceremony in honour of  soldiers who fell in  Israel’s wars.  (numbering over 23,000 people since 1860). 


In West Jerusalem, unlike East Jerusalem, everything was closed in honour of memorial Day.  As we walked through the bustling Arab market, shopkeepers sold their wares as groups of I.D.F. soldiers kept a close watch..  At the crowded  Western Wall Plaza,  Jewish Israelis stood for the one minute siren that begins memorial day. President Shimon Peres  and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi spoke to the crowd, which included many bereaved parents.

Throughout the moving ceremony, my 8 year old son and I had draped ourselves in large Israeli flags (which we had hidden in our knapsack in the Arab Quarter).  Afterward, we walked back through the closed almost empty Arab market.      Suddenly, two men behind us started to have a fist fight. Within seconds 15 to 20 I.D.F. soldiers descended out of the dark alleyways, surrounding them.   All was silent again.

The evening of Yom Ha’atzmaut, we went to Kikar Zion, on Jaffa street in West Jerusalem, for a special music, sound and light show.  The scene was wild, with people of all ages draped in Israeli flags, wearing anniversary glasses, hats, and t-shirts, as vendors sold candy floss, candy apples, and corn on the cob.

 The ultra-orthodox who make up such a significant segment of Jerusalem’s population, as well as the Arab population were missing from the crowd.  

 My favourite moment was the final sentence of Hatikva, which the crowd screamed out as giant fireworks lit up the sky: “Leyiot Am Hofshi Beartzeynu Eretz Zion, Yerushalayim.”   

 As Israelis celebrated noisily on the streets, cafes and restaurants in West Jerusalem, the streets in East Jerusalem were completely deserted. On the evening of the ‘Nakba,” the Arabs stayed at home

The next morning, we drove to the Tel-Aviv beachfront to watch “the land, sea and air show extravaganza “. My son’s eyes popped out of his head as he saw the parade of naval boats and sail boats, with airplanes doing tricks in the sky and parachuters landing on the beach.  I waded up to my waist in the sea, so that I could face the beach and get photos of the mass of Israelis lining it.  There were 300,000 people, parents with children on their shoulders, people hanging from the rooftops of restaurants and packed onto balconies of luxury towers. Looking at the scene, my friend commented that it “looked like it could have been a scene from the Exodus.”

Here was the nation of Israel, lining up of its own volition along the sea, the very sea which the Arab nations had threatened to drive the Jews into in 1948. Now, 60 years later, on Independence Day, we Jews drove ourselves to the sea. At that moment, the “schechianu” prayer came to my lips.

 
Unfortunately, during the show in Tel Aviv, one parachutists drifted and fell into the crowd, moderately injuring himself.. Nine spectators were injured, two of them gravely.   As it turned out, my son and his friend witnessing the accident and actually touched the parachute during the accident.

We sat on the beach until sunset and were joined for dinner by friends Dan and his son Adam( Dan is the grandson of Moshe Dayan and the son of Yael Dayan).

On our way home that evening, my son turned to me and said, “We’ll for sure come back for the 70th, won’t we Mom.” 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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