Today is my favorite day of the year, it’s Israel’s 69th birthday! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be there in just a few weeks not only to celebrate the marriage of a great friend, but also to celebrate another year of such a special place that I call my 3rd home and holds a very big place in my heart.
People always ask me, “Why Israel? Why you love it so much? Aren’t you afraid to go there?”
And my answers are:
- Do you have a few hours?
- IT’S AMAZING, and again, do you have a few hours?
- and NO! and then I say, “YOU SHOULD GO!”
It’s the people, it’s the language, it’s the food, it’s sheer beauty of the country, it’s the history, but really, it is SO much more. From the moment the airplane touches down, everyone claps and cheers (literally!), I get this indescribable feeling. Then I step off of the plane, walk outside, and take a deep breath and smile. Weirdly, Israel even smells different to me. And even though, I don’t speak the language fluently, it is a completely different culture, and it is always in the midst of a complicated political situation, I still feel more at home in Israel than anywhere else I have ever lived.
Yesterday was Yom Hazikaron, where we honored the soldiers who have died fighting for Israel. This day is incredibly important in Israel, as almost everyone has lost someone fighting, and/or knows someone who has lost someone in the line of duty. For 24 hours, the radio plays somber music, memorials all over Israel are on television, and the country is in a state of solemnness. At 11:00 AM, a siren is sounded throughout the country, and everyone stops what they are doing for two minutes to bow their head and remember. Imagine, driving down the busiest highway in your city, a siren sounds, and everyone pulls over to the side, turns off the car, gets out, and stands there, in solidarity. Israel literally stands still for two minutes. You can find a video here. On my first trip to Israel in 2006, I remember standing silently while the sirens blared across Israel, and words cannot describe what it feels like to be a part of such moving display of solidarity for the fallen.
In stark contrast to the sadness of Yom Hazikaron, the following day is a huge celebration for Israel’s birthday! Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s birthday) is my all time FAVORITE day of the year to be in Israel. Israeli flags hang from every home, silly string and foam cover the country, concerts and parties are on every corner, and the spirit and pride of the country is simply exuberating.
It hasn’t exactly been a piece of cake getting to 69, but I know that even with the past, present, and future turmoil, Israel will continue to persevere.
Happy 69th birthday to a country that I am deeply passionate about, have had so many wonderful memories in, and has changed my life in so many ways.
And many, many, more my beautiful third home.
Am Yisrael Chai! (The nation of Israel lives!)
For more about my passion for Israel, the food, culture, history, and everything that is Israel, follow me on my Israel and Portugal blogging series starting on May 22nd. GET EXCITED! I KNOW I AM!