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Yom Ha'atzmaut celebrations. Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Danita Aziza and her son Benji Aziza in their backyard in Evan Yehuda getting ready for Yom Ha’atzmaut.


By Danita Aziza, Winnipegger in Israel

Even before Pesach started, Yom Ha’atzmaut preparations were already taking shape. People could be found on small cranes throughout the roads of the country hanging Israeli flags and in Even Yehuda, the little town where we live, plastic orange, blue, white and green celebration banners are strung from almost every lamp post.

The day after Pesach, Israeli schools were still closed and middle and high school students were stationed at stoplights selling flags for people to purchase for their cars. The TV lifestyle shows are giving recipes for Yom Ha’atzmaut BBQs and each town and city is thick into planning their individual celebrations as soon as Yom Ha’Zikaron finishes on Monday evening, April 19. Most residents in town flood the City Center or local park for entertainment, lots of singing and of course, fireworks.

Last year we were elected, by virtue of having the largest BBQ, to host the Yom Ha’atzmaut BBQ for the families of three close friends of mine from Toronto who all made Aliyah many years ago.  The tradition here is that whoever hosts the BBQ supplies the meat and everyone else brings side dishes and dessert.  It was much fun and as we still have the largest BBQ, our Canadian Tire special that we shipped here when we came, we are again destined to be the proud hosts for this now second annual event.

It dawned on my yesterday that while Israelis are spontaneous and don’t plan much in advance, the planning for Yom Ha’atzmaut both publicly and personally starts weeks before the actual date of the 5th day of Iyar.  This is a bit bizarre given the fact that when I called an Israeli family I wanted to invite for Shabbat dinner two weeks in advance they frankly told me that I should call them the Thursday before and that, all being well they would love to come.  People here have learned all too well that in Israel things can change in a moment and so they tend to be a bit adverse to preparing or planning much in advance….with the exception of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Israel’s Independence Day is more than just a day of ceremony, celebration and as always, delicious food.  It is a reminder to those living in the country and Jews who are not, just how significant this little place is.  When I drive on the coastal highway and see the flags waving in the wind I spend most of my trip marveling at the sites around me.  The incredible four lane highway that keeps traffic moving from Netanya to Tel Aviv, the larger than life billboards advertising a new product on the market, a new shopping complex, and a exceptionally good restaurant housed in the off the highway gas station.

When I walk in the cities of Netanya, Ra’anana, Herzliya and Even Yehuda and see the banners strung down the streets my eyes are drawn to the parks overflowing with the cutest children you have ever seen.  I marvel at the way the parents interact with their children and it is made very obvious to an onlooker that these children are truly their parents’ greatest gifts.  
Danita and Michelle Azziza
Danita and Michelle Azziza

Yom Ha’atzmaut is like a big cleansing breath for Israelis who have become tired and worn by the endlessness of the fight to achieve what those living in so many Western countries take for granted.  It is a chance to replenish pride in the magnitude of what has been achieved and accomplished here in spite of all of the negativity that is directed Israel’s way.  For every criticism of this country, there are accolades ten times over and stories of amazing individuals with exceptional heart and courage, creativity and brilliance.

Israel’s complexity is front and center 24/7, but for a few weeks in the thick of spring, this country glosses over its frailties, challenges and divisions and comes together to revel in pride and celebration,  It isn’t just the dawning of Independence Day that drives home the point, but I’ve learned from the people here that you need to work hard, worry much, be aware of everything around you, but never forget to run into the coffee shop, order your cappuccino, call your friend on your cell phone and take time to soak in the beauty of the surrounding seashore, ancient ruin, skyscraper and the magnificence of the blossoming almond tree.

Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate Israel at 62.  And wish for her great strength, wisdom and blessings for all that lies ahead.  

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.