13 May 2008

Yom Ha'atzmaut / יום העצמאות

Yom Ha'atzmaut / יום העצמאות is the holiday commemorating the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It's a huge party, and while the Fourth of July is celebrated exuberantly in the USA, there is something in the air here, a pervasive sense of happiness, wonderment and amazement that here we are, in Israel, after 60 years! Indeed, the recent establishment of the state means that a large part of the population was alive and around when Israel was born. Yom Ha'atzmaut follows Yom HaZikaron immediately, meaning that as soon as the sun set on Memorial Day, a big, country-wide party started.

Roommate Lisa and I were discussing how heavy it is that Yom HaZikaron leads right into Yom Ha'atzmaut. One of the explanations is that we spend one day remembering the soldiers, citizens and other victims that enabled the creation of the state, and then, we celebrate the result the day later. The whole Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut progression is depressing to saddening and then joyous. Israel certainly knows how to put people on an emotional rollercoaster.

There was plenty to do on Yom Ha'atzmaut, so (read and view) on...

Two days earlier, they were setting up the stage for the big concert and light show on Yaffo. This is just where Ben Yehuda Street meets Yaffo at Kikar Tzion.

Rafi exalts that we are still here. Israel at 60. Amazing!

As Rafi and I walked up and down Ben Yehuda, before we met up with a variety of friends, we enjoyed checking out all of the different things for sale. Rafi and I had just eaten at Tmol Shilshom (I got shakshuka poisoning later that night, but that's another story), but that didn't stop him from marvelling over: hot dogs, candy apples, cotton candy, popcorn, corn on the cob, and, of course, waffles. He got cotton candy and waffles. Not bad.

My favorite Israeli! Shiran and I enjoy the concert crowd at Kikar Tzion.

Rafi and Noam are roommates. They are fabulous.

Arguably the best thing I learned this year: שערות סבתא / Sey-a-rote savta / Grandma's Hairs. This is Hebrew for Cotton Candy!

Up and down Ben Yehuda, and Yaffo, people were selling all sorts of junk. Note the blue-handled, yellow-bodied, pink-ended bopper (on the left). I bought one similar to this one, after years of wanting a bopper. Life = fulfilled.

Rafi also likes Grandma's hairs.

Round one at Babette's for waffles. I was too full to eat.

The flag of Jerusalem in front of the fireworks.

I turned to Shiran during the fireworks and said, "You know, if all of my Arnona money went into fireworks, then I'd be ok with it." It was so squishy and crowded during the fireworks-and-light show that if I had bent my knees and lifted my feet off of the ground, I wouldn't have moved at all.

The rest of the night was pretty good. Rafi had gone home so I could play with Shiran, but not before I found out that he's sneakily withheld from me the fact that I was missing Israeli Dancing at Kikar Safra (a 5-minute walk on a normal day). He didn't want to dance. I was kind of bummed, but I was hanging with Shiran, and she had a group of high schoolers from Houston who were doing an High School in Israel sponsored program before graduation. We even I ran into a whole host of people, from my friends staffing a Ramah spring program, to a variety of rabbinical students, to the special girls we met in Burgers Bar.

Ahhh, Burgers Bar. Shiran and I were looking for a place where we could use the bathroom, since public toilets are nonexistent in Jerusalem. We ended up in Burgers Bar, and we went downstairs to wait on the very long line for the bathroom. While waiting, we met (or, in reality, were forced to endure) a pair of girls who were typical "arsim" (Israeli categorization for club people). After standing in line with them, and then, washing our hands with them, I asked if I could take a picture of them, to document the Israeli Nicole Richie, and her evil twin. They ended up making a very obscene gesture at my camera. I'm scarred for life.

We hung around Ben Yehuda, getting a second serving of waffles, although I was still too full to eat much. We had to collect her kids, and then we walked back with them to Beit Gesher, where they were spending a few days, and where I spent 3 weeks of my high school Israel trip. It was a nice end to the night, because some of my fondest memories in Israel were based out of that very building.

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