Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yom HaZikaron & Yom HaAtzmaut

Yom HaZikaron & Yom HaAtzmaut are back-to-back holidays celebrated one day after the other, taking place just one week following Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The holiday of Yom HaZikaron is Israel's Memorial Day, meant to honor fallen soldiers as well as victims of terror. The somber day begins at nightfall (all days in the Jewish world being at nightfall and end the next night at nightfall). Flags are at half mast, entertainment and business are closed, somber programs appear on TV as well as somber music on the radio. It is a true national day of mourning, meant to be experienced by all. At 8 p.m., a loud siren is sounded throughout all communities in Israel and the world comes to a stop - music goes off, cars stop, restaurants become quiet and all you can hear is the sound of the wailing siren as well as tears being cried. The next morning at 11 a.m., the second siren goes off for another 2-minute tribute, during which we continue to remember the fallen soldiers and the terrorism victims. Almost anywhere you are, you can find a ceremony taking place for the memorial. For me, it was very sad to be here at Hadassah's University Hospital which looks out over Hebrew University, where a good friend of my family was murdered in a July 2002 bombing. I also thought of Gilad Shalit and how lucky he is to be home.


In typical Israel fashion, somber moments are almost always followed by celebration. Life goes on. That is why the nation's national Independence Day, called Yom HaAtzmaut, is celebrated at nightfall the very next day. Within moments, we go from crying into having a wild celebration in honor of Israel's 1948 independence. If you were in Israel right now, you would find raging parties and streets filled with music, celebrants, Israeli flags and all kinds of festive energy. It's exactly like the 4th of July, but wilder. Also, since the partying starts at night, prior to the next full day, it's almost two full days of fun. You will find most Israelis packed into parks and on the beach tomorrow, barbecuing, water skiing and having all kinds of typical Independence-day fun. It's too bad I'm stuck here in the hospital! Maybe we'll get permission to sneak out for an hour or two for a fun local outing. Usually we would have headed for Tel Aviv to Gan YeHoshua, Israel's "central park" so to speak.

These holidays really signal that beautiful weather is upon us and that the great spring/summer seasons are finally here. To me, it's one of the best times to come and visit Israel. Whoever is celebrating out there, I wish you a nice holiday weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yom HaShoah

Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, is here yet again. It is commemorated on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan which happened to fall between April 18-19, 2012 (days "begin" at sundown and "end" the next day at sundown). The day begins with a ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel's tribute to the Holocaust, where the flag is lowered to half mast, the President and Prime Minister deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors light six torches in honor of the 6 million who perished and prayers are recited.

The following day, the somber mood continues. Last year, my ulpan held a "tekes", or ceremony, for the occasion. This year, I find myself sitting inside the hospital, waiting out what has turned into a high-risk pregnancy. Still, the annual commemoration took place even inside hospital walls. 

Above is a video of the Yom HaShoah siren, which brings all of Israel to a silent standstill on this annual day. At 10 am, the loud sirens blare, and no matter where you are - driving on the road, in the middle of class, inside the hospital or in a restaurant - the world comes to a standstill. For a full minute, tears are shed and people stand in unison as we remember the 6 million who were lost. Any of us who are alive today are here because of an ancestor who was able to survive that horrific period of time. It always baffles me, imagining the sheer number of people lost and how many more would have been here today.


Also on this day, the annual March of the Living takes place, which brings thousands of students from around the world to a living march from Birkenau to Auschwitz in commemoration of those who were lost. Led by Holocaust survivors, it is an emotional and life-changing experience for young people. There won't be too many years left that actual survivors will be able to lead the way.


At night, all places of public entertainment are closed by law and regular TV programming is canceled, replaced by tributes to the Holocaust and relevant documentaries. It is a somber day, but one that is very symbolic of Israeli culture. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you will take a minute to remember all whom were lost and pray that such a tragedy never befalls the world again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bed Rest

I've been away from my blog for almost two weeks now, and for good reason. Much to my dismay, I had an unexpected episode with my pregnancy on March 31, 2012 at 20 weeks, 5 days into my twin pregnancy. During a Saturday afternoon nap, I discovered that the water broke on the boy's gestational sac (this shouldn't happen until delivery time) and this condition is a very rare one called PPROM. I will spare you the details, but the prognosis is not good. I'm told to prepare for the very worst. Doctors cannot explain why it happens, but are quick to tell you how serious of a condition it is, urging you to terminate immediately. Needless to say, it's been a rough 10 days and I'm on bed rest for an indefinite amount of time. To put it bluntly, I'll be here until the babies are out of me, dead or alive, in a week from now or in 13 weeks from now.

Of course this had to happen just days before my scheduled trip to the US where I was going to spend time with family in New York City, and then to DC before going to a baby moon in Cancun. All plans were cancelled. Instead, I've been here at Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in the High Risk wing, which just so happens to be down the street from my house. So, at least my husband is close by, visiting me every morning and every night.

Being here has been an experience already. Meeting all kinds of people, hearing all kinds of stories and seeing all kinds of things first hand. I try to take it day by day and try to keep my mind off what could happen. Instead of celebrating Passover with family in their Hamptons getaway, I had a once-in-a-lifetime seder at the hospital with a group of 20-something other patients and some of their family members.

I'd swore I'd never be in Israel for Pesach again. Everything is closed, the food is awful and the country is flocked with tourists for Passover and Easter. Lucky me, not only am I in Israel again for Passover, but I'm in an Israeli hospital for Passover too. Take a look at what I mean. I don't think this is exactly what pregnant women have in mind for three meals a day:


Living quarters are cramped, three women to a room with curtain barriers. I've cleaned up a little but this is generally what my current space looks like. Good thing I'm an adaptable person (and I really can't complain because health care is covered here, thus thank G-d for socialized health care).  I'm keeping myself busy and have been here already 10 days. In an ideal world, I'd be here another 100 days or so (that would be 35 weeks pregnant). In reality, I know this is wishful thinking. Just taking it one day at a time. My situation, as I've been told, is grave. I'm doing my best to avoid the negativity and to try to be hopeful and to pray for continued health.

Things could change at any moment. Today is Birkat Hakohanim, a day of praying for miracles amidst the Passover holiday during which the greatest miracle of all occurred. I'm praying for my own miracle. If you were at the wall today, this is what you would see, everyone there praying for their own individual miracles:

As you might imagine I'm not going to be "around" much on the blog but maybe will make some appearances in order to keep my mind distracted. Thanks for your prayers and support.