An affair to remember…

  

I have fallen in love with a 63 year old. A complicated, tempestuous and passionate 63 year old. These past weeks this sexy 63 year old has made me ride a rollercoaster of emotions.

Now before some of you scratch your heads in confusion, my delicious 63 year is of no particular gender (well, being quite tempestuous some may render my 63 year old a woman!) and though only “officially” 63, this love of mine is several thousands of years old.

It is easy to fall in love withIsrael. This is a country whose people value life and celebrate it with incredible vigour. In as much as we celebrate the sanctity of life, we also stress the importance of the preservation of memory.

Never is this more evident than on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day). On this day, the entire country pauses to rememberIsrael’s brave men and women who have fallen in battle. When the first siren sounds at 20h00 the evening before, signalling the start of Yom Hazikaron it is a very humbling and sobering reminder that the lives of nearly 23 000 men and women have been cut short in defence of the security of our beloved State. In its short 63 year old existence as a modern State, this country has witnessed several wars and more than its fair share of clashes with its extremely hostile neighbourhood. The Middle East is a volatile neighbourhood where bullyboy tactics are the order of the day but pluckyIsraelis not one to stand down in the face of adversity!

But courage has come with a terrible price and that is the loss of precious life.

A recent Olah, I have never had the opportunity to serve my country in her army. I regret not coming toIsraelat an age where I could serve because I feel that as Olim we miss out on a vital part of Israeli society.

And then literally overnight the mood of the country changes from deep reflection and mourning to that of exuberant celebration.

Israelover the chagim (holidays) is a sight to behold! Cars and apartments are festooned in blue and white Israeli flags and the excitement is absolutely palpable. Saying that Israelis can party is an understatement!

On the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day)Israel’s streets are lined with happy proud revellers. Modiin rocked toIsrael’s most popular singer Eyal Golan. His arrival was announced by the high pitched, ultrasonic squealing of several thousand excited teenage girls and more than a few ecstatic adult women. Even I knew the words to some of his songs and managed to sing along in badly mimed Hebrew!

Living inIsraelis a sensory experience. Whether it is hearing Hebrew spoken around you (normally at a very rapid speed!) or the feast for your eyes which this little oasis in the desert is, on Yom Ha’atzmaut it is your sense of smell which is heightened. By the smell of food a’la aish (for South Africans……BRAAI VLEIS!)

Normally debating is the favoured national pastime but this is given short reprieve for a la aish on Yom Ha’atzmaut. To my great amusement, pita vendors paraded up and down the beach selling perfect accompaniment to any meal – the pita. No not ice creams, pitot! Well as we say here, ZOT YISRAEL! (This isIsrael).

And what a treat to sea the best of Israel’s naval and air force hardware demonstrated in a flyover and a sail past on the coastline! The sight of a cluster of F16’s definitely had this Olah Chadesha screaming like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert!

These have been weeks of “firsts”. And what a wild ride they have been!

Even though I have been made to ride an emotional rollercoaster these past few weeks, my love affair with Israel is one I will gladly boast about.

A Siren wailed and freedom rang

 

The picture that says it all.

The other day I thought it was high time that I updated my blog.  I sat down to write my blog post about Pesach and I pondered  about what I was going to write, how it feels to celebrate as an Olah Chadesha and even just the mind boggling experiences of shopping in Israel for this Chag. There are so many scenarios I could describe but it seemed fitting that today of all days when I share my thoughts, I talk about Freedom.

 It is always a dangerous prospect to leave me alone with my thoughts but on a day like this, freedom is a most fitting theme!

 Today is Yom Hashoa, a day when we honour the memory of the six million Jews hunted down and exterminated simply for being Jewish. It is a day deeply ingrained in the collective Jewish psyche and felt in our souls as it will be for generations to come.  I sit as a yartzheit (memorial) candle flickers in memory of the martyred six million and an Israeli flag flutters proudly from my balcony and many others across the country as we ready ourselves for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) next week. It is a fitting tribute from a proud nation to our country and her people. We are reminded on a day like today of the importance of the existence of this country. How many could have found refuge, been saved, found hope in the existence of a Jewish state?

This morning,Israelcame to a stand still as the memorial siren wailed at 10am. It was profoundly emotional for me to stand in complete silent memory. Tears streamed down my face as I contemplated the magnitude of 6 million lives lost. Who were these people? Who could they have become? What became of my family? I remember the names of those whose fates we know. Aleksander Carpel for whom my father is named. Caroline Carpel, Miriam Carpel and countless other relatives whose names are forever captured in the vaults of Yad Vashem by Lazarus Karpel, who bore witness. I remember with fondness the fact that brothers spelt their surnames differently. These were people. Loved by many. Murdered by Nazis. Today, remembered by me, living in freedom in the State of Israel.  

I thought about the enormity of making Aliyah. The opportunity it brings for us to live in freedom in our tiny, democratic, fiercely passionate and proud Jewish State. There is that word freedom again!

We woke up this morning to the breaking news that Chief Terrorist and public enemy number 1, Osama Bin Laden had been killed. In an interesting twist of irony, both the death of this madman and another, the architect of the Holocaust, Adolph Hitler was announced May 1!

Again the word freedom rings. Bin Laden has kept the world in collective imprisonment as his drip fed terrorist rhetoric through messages broadcast via the internet and rare video appearance. Is it a coincidence that on Yom Hashoa, we hear of the demise of yet another hate-filled lunatic?

As Yom Hashoa draws to a close this evening, the wreaths placed at memorials around the country will dry, normal broadcast scheduling on TV will resume and the flames of yahrtzeit candles will die out. But we will forever remember the vow that we have sworn, NEVER FORGET and NEVER AGAIN.