Holiday Season Continues in Israel

This post is by Sarah Padway, participant on the Career Israel Internship Program. Graduate of  the University  of Wisconsin ( BA in Journalism and Mass Communications and History).  Sarah’s internship in Tel Aviv is in government and politics.  

The week following Yom HaShoah, we celebrated two of the most opposite holidays back to back, Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). We began on Tuesday with a tour of Yad Vashem andMt.Herzlwith Career Israel. This was my first time visiting Yad Vashem, and it was an experience. Even the layout of the museum pays tribute to victims. The museum is laid out so that it is impossible to go straight through, because, like in the Holocaust, there was no easy way out.

The most moving exhibit that I went through was the Children’s Memorial. It is completely dark, except 5 candles that are reflected off of thousands of mirrors, so it seems like hundreds of candles, representing the children’s universes that were lost far too soon. We then walked up toMt. Herzl,Israel’sNationalCemetery. The walk up to the cemetery symbolizes the rise from the Holocaust to the creation of the Jewish State.Mt.Herzlis home to members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) who fall in service, as well as prominent Israeli, Jewish and Zionist leaders. As we were walking through the cemetery, it struck me that because all Israelis serve in the IDF, it is likely that every citizen knows someone who is buried atMt.Herzl. The cemetery is absolutely gorgeous, and pays a beautiful tribute to every person who died fighting forIsrael.

Career Israel internship program participants on Yom HaZikaron (Photo by Oriel Kempner)

Since Tuesday evening marked the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, we went to a MASA Remembrance event in Latrun that evening. The event included stories of a few fallen soldiers and terror victims, as well as songs and writings by both the victims and members of their families. The program was a lot to take in after an already heavy day, but it is important to take the time to remember those lost in battle and terror attacks. I felt an incredible connection to the soldiers and their families. There was another moment of silence on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. This time, I was in the shuk with Oriel. The shuk is a boisterous place, and at 11 a.m., the entire market went silent and still. Then, similar to Yom HaShoah, once the siren stopped, business continued.

Then, around sundown, the transformation happened signaling the beginning of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. We went to Kikar Rabin, where there was a live band, fireworks, and everyone dancing in the street to celebrateIsrael’s birthday, the whole country became a huge party. Putting the two holidays back-to-back emphasizes the fact that the reasonIsraelexists is because of those who sacrificed their lives to defend the country, a very beautiful tradition.

Career Israel internship program participants on Yom Haatzmaut (photo by Nina Baker)

At this point, you’re probably thinking, does she ever go to work? I do, I swear! After a weekend of celebrating, it was back to work on Sunday morning. When I got to work, I was told not to unpack anything because we were heading straight to a meeting about using new media effectively. There were about 30 members of different branches of the Israeli government, and we were meeting with senior communications advisors for theU.S.government. So, on the other side of the world, I was sitting across the table from a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton, the White House director of new media, and new media advisors for other sectors of the government! It was interesting to hear why the government uses certain strategies and new media tools as opposed to others.

The past two weeks have been an incredible mix of experiences. I know these holidays will never simply be regular holidays, marked on the calendar, ever again. But for now, it’s back to work, for a few days at least!

For more information about Career Israel…

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