OJC’s March of the Living, Day 12 – A day to remember
Today we observed Israel’s memorial day. We began our day with a cross country drive that took all of 90 minutes. We arrived at Atlit, a detention camp administered by the British before the founding of the state of Israel. Atlit housed the Maapilim, Jews who escaped Europe for Palestine without official documentation and in violation of quotas the British imposed in 1939. If captured, the Maapilim were taken from their boats to Atlit, where they were disrobed and disinfected, men and women were separated from one another, and a sometimes long and often boring waiting period began. But the dream of stepping foot in the promised land was enough to carry them through the dangerous voyage, one that felt all too much for some like a return to the concentration camps they were escaping.
A short ride through Haifa and we were back at Kfar Ahava. Most of the children were on their way home for the holiday, but after a tour of the grounds, we experienced the memorial created for the children. It was a powerful exhibit that spoke to all ages about the value of every life and every story. A candle had been saved for us to light, and we once again felt the warm embrace of the place that has adopted us as its own as much as we have adopted the place.
We returned to the hotel for an emotional afternoon meeting with representatives of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), and a group of women and children who lost loved ones in service of the United States military and who are beneficiaries of the program. They are here as part of a joint program with the IDF’s Widows and Orphans Fund, and were participating in the Yom Hazikaron commemoration. They inspired us and left us humbled with their stories of courage, resilience and pride.
This evening we watched the ceremony that transitions the nation into its Independence Day celebration. For individuals who suffered personal loss, there is no transition into joy. For the nation, however, there is a collective exhale, filled with genuine joy, sincere appreciation, and heartfelt song. We stood in Jerusalem’s Safra Square surrounded by thousands who took to the streets to sing and dance. We marveled at the multiple generations that danced together and knew all the lyrics to the songs that have told the story of the nation for decades.
The dream, we realized, is alive and well. We exhaled from a long and emotional 24 hours. And we danced.
Happy 66th birthday, Israel!
Rabbi Craig Scheff