Every year it amazes me how such a simple thing as a siren will stop an entire country. The siren goes at 8 and at 11, and everything stops- people in the middle of the street stand at attention- standing up straight and feet together. At night while rushing to get to where one needs to go, there is a one minute pause to start the day of sadness. To start the day of mourning those who have lost their lives in events that are still happening daily. So when a phone drops from your hands at the beginning of the siren- you just leave it on the floor for the rest of that minute. The phone is not as important.
Sitting in a café on a sunny morning, again the siren goes- this time for two minutes. Everyone in town gets up, goes into the streets from their store, to stand alone but at the same time together. You stand still. You stand tall. You stand with your feet together. You listen to the piercing siren and the birds chirping. That is all the noise that is around. No one is talking. No cars are moving. Just the siren and the birds, with a bit of wind.
I had a hard time this year celebrating. I wanted to be celebrating- but it hurt a bit. The entire time I was thinking about how this might be the last one- because so much of this will not be the same even if it is replicated in the US.
The same way that there is intense sadness in the air on Yom Hazikaron, there is immense joy in the air on Yom Haazmaut. Singing a musical Hallel, outside, with many different people from different walks of life. Going into town with it being full of people of all ages until 4am. Looking off the bridge by the Begin Center, while listening to the trance music coming from the party that is happening outside the old city- and it is already 3am.
The smell of BBQ filling the air of the entire city. Going from park to park to have more BBQ and to see friends. The park is filled with Americans, French, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Iraqis…you name it, they are there in the park together side by side. Singing Mizrachi karaoke music. Playing soccer. Having a shaving cream fight.
As the sun slowly goes down so do the fires. The wind picks up and it starts to get chilly again, and people start packing up to go home. After taking a day to mourn together, and then another day to celebrate together- it is time to go back inside. Back to our own small worlds, with little bits of remembering we are one that will hopefully last for the rest of the year.
Things I Will Miss
- Hanging my laundry to dry in the sun
- Walking in the streets and bumping into people I know
- Walking in the streets and knowing the shop owners
- It being safe to walk home not matter what time of night it is
- Having my close friends only a few minutes away
- Getting vegetables for the prices I get them for
- Not having paid for a scallion in 6 years
- Paying 4 shekel for no matter how many carrots and onions I buy
- Having theological conversations with the owners of shops
- It not being creepy to talk to an old man when he sits down at a café