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Israel 2024 – May 13: Yom Hazikaron by Isabella Bodzin

Yesterday, May 13, we started our day with Tefillah and breakfast at the beautiful kibbutz, Mashabei Sadeh. After that, we loaded all our things on to the bus and started our journey to Sde Boker. Sde Boker is a small town in the south where former prime minister, David Ben Gurion, spent his retirement. We drove past Kibbutz Sde Boker, a branch of Ben Gurion University, and a military experience base for both Israeli and American kids to get a taste of the army

We then walked into the Ben Gurion institute and did a fascinating simulation of a court hearing determining whether or not Israel should have declared their independence when they did in 1948, or if, like some believed, it would have been better to wait a few months. 

Then, we arrived at the gravesite of Ben Gurion and his wife, Paula Ben Gurion. We talked a bit about his life and how he ended up in Sde Boker. It was very interesting and meaningful to hear about how, even after establishing the State of Israel, he truly always felt like he was just a normal guy with a dream, no better than anyone else. 

We heard the second Yom HaZikaron siren at the Ben Gurion graveside. It was an out-of-body experience, just thinking about how everyone in the country was mourning together and sharing this moment. I am extremely grateful to be able to experience Yom HaZikaron in Israel, especially at this difficult time. 

After that, we got on the bus and went to the grocery store. We did a “supermarket sweep” for lunch, where we were put into small groups and were allowed 40 shekels per person to make a meal for the group. It was super fun and a little stressful, but it turned out to be a delicious meal. My group did a dairy-themed lunch and had bagels, cheeses, and some other stuff. 

We traveled to the Mitzpe Ramon visitor’s center and learned about the life and legacy of Elan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut who was tragically killed in 2003 when the Columbia space shuttle exploded upon re-entry. We also learned about what a Machtesh is, similar to a crater. We exited the visitor’s center and went outside to walk around the edge of Machtesh Ramon, and it was beautiful. 

After the small hike we got on the bus to go back to the kibbutz. We stopped at a gas station on the way to get some snacks and drinks for our Yom Ha’Atzmaut party that we were having at the kibbutz. We knew this was going to be a difficult Yom Ha’Atzmaut for the entire country, so we wanted to stay in and bring the fun to us! 

We got back to our rooms and prepared for the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha’Atzmaut, applying face paint and getting our Israeli flags ready. We gathered in the same room where we did Tefillah and watched a ceremony that was broadcasted on TV at the kibbutz. In this Tekes, there were lantern lights lit in all different parts of Israel that were struck on October 7. It was hard to think about the war and all it has taken from us, but at the same time, we knew we needed to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut because the sweetness of celebration has to overcome the bitterness of evil. 

When the party started, wedanced, sang, and did some karaoke for a few hours. Miriam had randomly brought a microphone with her, which we used to help bring up the party vibes.  Even though it wasn’t exactly the celebration we were expecting, it was still incredibly fun and meaningful. Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach and Am Yisrael Chai.

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