Commemorating and celebrating – apart but together

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By Michal Ilan

As Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut approached, I was getting nervous. Of all the Jewish dates on the calendar, these are the two I was really dreading spending in isolation. In the past two years I was amazed at how meaningful these two Israeli days felt for my family and I, here in Cape Town. 

What made them meaningful was spending them with the community. It was always so moving seeing people come to the Yom Hazikaron ceremony, commemorating with us those who have been lost to wars and terror and feeling we are in it together because we are one people, no matter what ID we have. 

A day later seeing thousands celebrate Israel together at Yom Ha’atzmaut has been a highlight of our time here. This year, we knew it was all going to be very different and I was nervous. The SAZF and the Israel Centre spent a lot of time planning and preparing for those two days but I was nervous that even though there were different programmes offered, it was still going to be lonely and isolated and may not appeal to many people.

These Corona times keep teaching us new lessons about ourselves, the world and our assumptions. I am happy to say that I was so very wrong about how I thought I would feel during these two days.

On Yom Hazikaron we watched the Masa Global Ceremony. Yes, we were alone at home, watching a ceremony on screen, but we did not feel isolated. The ceremony was broadcast on Facebook and while we were watching, we kept seeing messages from people from all over the world who were watching it with us. On WhatsApp, people from the community were commenting and sharing how powerful they found the ceremony and somehow, sitting on a couch surrounded by my family members alone, I felt surrounded by so many more.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut the feeling grew even stronger.

We started the morning with an art workshop led by Israeli artist Hanoch Piven. Hundreds of kids from all over South Africa joined us on Zoom and on Facebook, listened to Piven’s story, learned his technique and created an image of ‘What we are made of’ placing items that signify their connection to Israel in their portraits.

Later in the day we joined different sessions designed to celebrate varied aspects of Israel. From food to fashion and from sport to music — things and people we could never have exposed the community to in normal days. We watched a music video featuring Matisyahu singing with eight singers from around the world, including two members of our Partnership2Gether, Mia Shaked from Cape Town and Layla Kagan from Beit Shemesh, who both sang on our Yom Ha’atzmaut stage just a year ago.

As the day was about to end, I was looking back at everything we did that day and realised that not only were we part of a community, but this year we felt part of a global Jewish community. One that cares, shares resources, commemorates and celebrates together.


The Israel Centre www.israelcentre.co.za

Visit www.sazfcape.co.za for more information and news.

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