29 July 2011 was the last day of travelling on our trip (excluding the final airport ride). Looking back on what we did five years later, I’d like to reflect on the theme of UNION.
This day of the trip involved us going to הר הרזל (Mount Herzl), as well as Ben Yehuda Street. The beginning of the day was very somber, at the military cemetery which also included the graves of major names in Israeli history (Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Theodor Herzl, etc.)
The graves of the IDF soldiers were all the same, regardless of their ranks. This is quite striking, and my take five years later is that the soldiers need to have more honors in life, yet still memorialized as a person.
There was also a “union” idea on the walls that listed the names of civilians who had died in terrorist attacks. Dan had recommended that each of us remember at least one name to keep their legacy going forward, and the name which I recalled (and will recall now) is מאיר סיגל (Meir Segal). The reason that I chose that name was because my Dad’s Hebrew name is also Meir, to give me another association with that name.
It strikes me now how important Israel’s Memorial Day (יום הזכרון: Yom Ha’Zikaron) is, since (virtually) everyone serves in the military, so that the world becomes VERY small there. The whole country stops for two minutes, which is something that I don’t think would EVER happen in the States on Memorial Day, particularly since it has become so commercialized. It speaks to the unity of the Israelis in honoring their fallen warriors.
Some of the stories, such as the עולה (oleh: immigrant-citizen) whose family wasn’t there, yet hundreds of Israelis that showed up to his funeral, make me realize how much we stand for each other and create a huge family. Five years later, remembering the project “Soon We Will Become A Song” eerily relates to the hashtags of innocent civilians that have been murdered in the USA recently (e.g. #PhilandoCastile). Songs and hashtags don’t make the pain dissipate…
And once we got to Herzl’s grave at the top of the mountain, and sang התקווה (Ha’Tikvah), my voice cracked and my eyes welled up with emotion. This moment really sank into me how united I am with the Birthright group members and the Jewish community at large. Though I have fallen out of contact with much of the group [due to circumstances of time and place, rather than negative feelings toward anyone], I would feel comfortable trying to reunite with any of them (assuming that they would be willing to reciprocate).
I was quite saddened as well, at this point, that I was just “learning how to drive” so to speak in social situations, and that the trip was almost over. Nevertheless, I feel that I took away lots of lessons and great friendships, even if many of them are dormant.
Granted, on Ben Yehuda Street, I mostly went on my own, but I suppose that sometimes adventure is good in groups; other times it’s fun to fly solo.
And one more thing about Union: our voices seemed stronger and more as one when we did קבלת שבת that evening. Interestingly, the services that I will go to tonight are also going to be outside of a synagogue, and with friends from a community that I was with for a relatively short period of time.
Nevertheless, five years ago and today, I realize that these friendships won’t go away if I try to keep in contact. As the old song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old.”
Here are some pictures from that day, some which are of the “union” theme and others which are just my favorites from then.
Check out the remaining entries in this sequence!
[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 10 of 11] Union (You are here)
[Taglit 5-Year Retrospective part 11 of 11] Coming soon!
Kenosha: 3 days.
Orientation: 17 days.
Day 1: 40 days.