This past Monday, the Hebrew Academy commemorated Yom Hazikaron and celebrated Yom Haatzmaut by holding their annual ceremony followed by Independence Day festivities. The ceremony included a memorial service to recognize and remember the fallen, and a play in which high school students were portrayed as the captives from operation Entebbe.
“The beginning of the ceremony, the part that was in remembrance for Yom Hazikaron, was definitely the best memorial service the school has ever had,” said Shani Kravetz (11th grade).
Immediately following the play, survivors from operation Entebbe came up on stage to address the audience.
Shay Gross, who was only six years-old at the time of the operation, recalled playing “soccer” with a crumbled soda can. Gross shared his childhood memories of being happy and laughing, but explained how his laughter was met with beatings from the officers.
Benny Davidson, was a mere 13 years-old during operation Entebbe, and he was not religious. On the last night of being held hostage, gunfire was heard all around the room that they were being kept in. His mother jumped on him to shield him with her body and said, “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad,” a line that he was unaccustomed to saying. Someone shouted “The IDF soldiers are here” and amidst all the gunfire, Benny lifted his face to see his saviors.
“Life continues,” Davidson said. “Sounds like an acronym, like a false statement. I am the living witness of it.” The ceremony concluded by showcasing our admiration for the soldiers by dedicating a short segment to them.
“Being called to the stage made me feel really special,” Rena Kahn (11th) said. “My brother is in the paratrooper unit and it is a very dangerous unit so I consistently think about him. Having someone so close to me in the army, especially a brother who I love so much was really inspirational to me, as well as him when I told him.”
The somber tone of the night was lightened with traditional festivities that began with daglanut (Israeli flag dancing). The excitement then segued into the rest of the night while everyone began eating, dancing, and watching fireworks.
The enthusiasm for the holiday did not stop when Monday evening’s activities came to a close.
The following day, excitement flooded through the halls as students began their day with a 9 A.M. start. The day opened with a school-wide davening in the gym and a sponsored breakfast after an uplifting davening.
Rav Netanel Weil, a former IDF soldier, wore his uniform to the davening and described it as a “strong and powerful morning for our school.” Davening included the students, parents, and people who have no affiliation with the school except that they wanted to go to a powerful davening service in honor of Israel.
“I honestly thought it was so beautiful,” said Daniella Shakib (9th). “Watching the whole school gathered together, along with parents who showed up, was really magnificent. Being there, watching babies in their mother’s arms, all the way to the parents themselves, gave me the chills. Watching everyone sing in unity, all saying ‘Amen,’ was a very strong feeling which really resonated with me. I felt God’s presence there.”
The rest of the day included speakers, such as Hebrew Academy alumnus Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Joseph Zevuloni who came on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Speaking to a smaller crowd, Zevuloni created sparks in the kids’ eyes saying that their dreams are capable of making differences in the world.
“Joseph Zevuloni taught me that your voice matters, no matter your age. Knowing his audience, he spoke about everyone’s power to make changes which was definitely impactful,” Shakib said.
Prior to the assembly, Zevuloni pulled up to school with his Israeli and American flag car along with a huge car with speakers in front of him and many men on motorcycles behind him. He began dancing with the high schoolers in the middle of the street. The crowd started singing “Am Yisrael Chai” and people passing by couldn’t help but record what was going on. The performance ended with a rapper rapping about Israel before students returned to the high school for special classes on Israel. Mrs. Citron’s cooking class made shakshuka, hummus and Isreali salad, giving it out to students at the end of the day.
The transition from the solemnity of Yom HaZikaron to the jubilation of Yom Haazmaut was reflected in the way that these events were planned and organized. The day strengthened the students’ love for Israel and their understanding of its importance. Participating in both the ceremony and the festivities is relative to the fact that we should all be there not just to bask in the glory of the good times, but to also take a step back and show our support during trying moments as well. These events made parents, students, and other guests who participated more aware of how important Israel is to us and how much we have to fight for it to stay ours. Israel’s 69th birthday was a very joyous occasion at the Hebrew Academy.
By: Samantha Ebner (9th Grade)