OJC’s March of the Living, Day 11
Day 11 of our journey began with a beautiful morning minyan on the hotel terrace looking towards the Old City. We made a minyan for an older gentleman from Connecticut saying Kaddish for his mother. We were proud to be a community for him on this morning.
Over breakfast, Joan Kedem, a long-time friend of OJC and advocate for Israel’s lone soldiers, shared with us her latest efforts on behalf of the soldiers who serve in Israel without the support and/or presence of families.
Our first stop of the day was the City Planners’ Office. We examined the miniature model of the city, with all its current and proposed building projects reflected on the map. The lifelike representation helped orient us to the topography, and to understand the historical development and expansion of the city. We ascended to the rooftop to gaze at the real-life, breathtaking version of the city.
11am? Must be time for a winery visit! At Tzuba, we were introduced to the art of growing grapes, and to the production of kosher wines. We got a lesson in tasting, then fulfilled the obligation of four cups (is it Passover again already?), plus two ports, red and white, for dessert. Neeedles to say, wee were all shtarting to feel pritty good ’bout th day ahed….
A good dose of fresh air, lunch on Ben Yehuda street (I had Kosher McDonald’s, surprised?) and a brief shopping spree got us refocused for our next visit. At Our Crowd, we met with venture capitalist Élan Zivitofsky, who gave us an overview of the factors that have led to Israel’s status as the start-up nation.
After a brief respite back at our hotel, we headed to Hatzor, an Air Force base near my younger sister Randi’s home, where we had the opportunity to experience an opening ceremony of Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron. Ariel Brickman, former commander of the base and now General Manager of the Ramon Foundation, greeted us and brought us to our seats. While most of us didn’t understand the speeches, songs and poems that were shared, we were deeply affected by the sound of the 8pm siren that was observed in silence, the voices that gave expression to the pain of the many losses recalled, and the swell of unity and pride that was shared when we stood for Hatikvah. Following the hour-long ceremony for the base soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen pilots, we met (by chance!) with several American soldiers from an airborne division who are training with the Israeli pilots. They talked about their positive experiences with the Israelis, how moved they were by the outpouring of honor and respect paid to Israel’s fallen soldiers, and by the way Jewish people recall their loved ones. In turn, we were so proud to be represented by this fine group of American soldiers.
No alcohol is served tonight. Restaurants are closed for the evening. TV and radio stations carry no light entertainment. Soldiers’ stories and songs of loss fill the airwaves. It is a communal and individual time to remember, to reflect and to find strength and comfort in a nation-wide embrace.
Rabbi Craig Scheff