Tears of Sadness and Tears of Joy: Los Angeles Unites For Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut
The Los Angeles community commemorated the holidays of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut in locations throughout the city, including the Saban Theatre, Beth Jacob, and Rancho Park.
Friends of the IDF, the Temple of the Arts, and The Consul General of Israel – in partnership with dozens of schools, synagogues, and organizations – hosted their third annual, community-wide Yom Hazikaron commemoration at the Saban Theatre.
Consul General Sam Grundwerg addressed the audience and stated that every day is Yom Hazikaron for the families of 23,544 brave men and women in the IDF and associated security forces and the families of the 3117 Jews murdered by Arab terrorists. Everyone in the theater stood as a siren sounded to honor our fallen soldiers and terror victims.
Many of heroic men and women who fought for Israel were present both on stage and in the audience. The leader of the Temple of the Arts, Rabbi David Baron, introduced two of them, 93-year-old Mitchell Flint and IDF Captain Eitai Cohen.
Rabbi Baron screened part of a documentary, Angels in the Sky, which tells the story of Mitchell Flint, a Jewish fighter pilot for the United States Air Force during WWII. When Flint found out that Jews in the Holy Land who had escaped being murdered by the Nazis were now under threat from their Arab neighbors, he volunteered to fly combat missions during Israel’s War of Independence. Miraculously, he – along with a group of (primarily Jewish) volunteer pilots from around the globe – were the shomrim who stopped six advancing Egyptian armies with only decrepit planes.
Eitan Cohen, also a Jewish hero and the son of four Holocaust survivors, enlisted at the age of 18 and still serves in the IDF. He stated, “We must understand the importance of our eternal Jewish homeland, and we will do our part to ensure that our people will never again suffer the tragedy we once endured.”
Attendee Rita Armani, a native of Israel, voiced her appreciation of the evening. She said that her heart brought her to be together with other Jews and that all her thoughts were with the families of soldiers who gave their lives. Gila Geva, also Israeli, said she came to the U.S. to attend UCLA. Her eyes welled up with tears as she recalled calling her mother that morning in Tel Aviv, and hearing the siren that halts everything to honor those Jews who lost their lives to protect and defend the Jewish nation.
Mordechai Glieberman, who served in the infantry Givati Brigade 1953 to 1956, said he watched the news on the Israeli channel and had tears in his eyes when he saw all the young officers who died in the wars. He said although he rarely cries, today it was impossible not to.
Carley Sirlin, a lovely young woman who greeted people at the door of the Saban, grew up in the suburb of West Bloomfield, Michigan, went to Young Judea, Hillel Day school became an Israeli scout and became a lone soldier in Israel.
At the Beth Jacob event, the synagogue was packed, standing room only, with hundreds of children and parents from each of the community’s shuls and schools, as well as community leaders, for Bnei Akiva’s inspiring Yom Hazikaron & Yom Ha’atzmaut program. The social hall was beautifully decorated in blue and white with balloons and flags in preparation for singing, dancing and a barbeque for a grand celebration for Israel’s 69th birthday.
Executive Director Mazkirim of Bnei Akiva, Rabbi Menachem Hecht, said that Bnei Akiva continues to proudly and joyfully deliver their message: Am Yisrael, b’Eretz Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael, Israel is the home of the Jewish people, as promised in the Torah. Many graduates of Bnei Akiva make aliyah and several are currently serving in Tzahal. 60 high school students are taking roles as madrichim to convey this message throughout the year, and these young Jewish leaders emceed the evening.
In memory of Israel’s fallen, the Israeli flag was lowered to half mast, a siren sounded for a moment of silence, and the prayer “El Maleh Rachamim” was recited as everyone joined together to honor the kedoshim who have lost their lives al kiddush Hashem. Bnei Akiva youth told stories of Jews murdered by Arab terrorists but who accomplished so much during their lifetimes that they remain alive in the hearts of all Jews.
Then, the flag was then returned to full mast and shofarot were blown to signify the beginning on Yom Ha’atzmaut. The audience clapped along to rousing performances by the Gindi Mainonides Academy Choir, the Harkham Hillel Academy Choir, and The Bnei Akiva Los Angeles Choir.
On Sunday, May 7th, the Israel American Council (IAC) held their community-wide Yom Haatzmaut celebration at Rancho Park. The theme this year was “Jerusalem: Fifty Years of Reunification.” 15 festivals were held nationwide, with Los Angeles being the largest. IAC’s goal for the festival was to engage not only Israelis, but the entire Jewish community as well as their non-Jewish friends. Inside the park, there were many activities to choose from, including riding camels, pony rides, learning at the Biblical Zoo, and creating crafts. Vendors sold a wide variety of kosher food items, including falafel and schwarma by Lieder’s and fresh fruits and vegetables in the area replicating Mahane Yehuda (“the shuk“).
At “Abraham and Sarah’s tent,” visitors could catch a song by popular L.A.-based band, Moshav and catch a glimpse of the Pico Shul’s rav, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, dressed as Avraham Avinu.
Yehuda Deutsch gave a virtual tour of the Western Wall every 15 minutes. His presentation included a history lesson of Jerusalem and an overview of the Western Wall tunnels.
In the afternoon, there was a Mega Challah Bake with a dozen or more tables set with a pan of dough, kneaded and ready to be braided. Luna Kadouri Shalom led the IAC challah baking program and had a large challah on a table prepared to enable everyone to make a brachah in unison for all of Israel’s soldiers. Mrs. Shalom teaches classes on Judaism at the IAC Miri Shepher Community Center in Woodland Hills, and together with Mazal Hadad she will be leading the new Birthright for Moms initiative sponsored by the IAC and the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project. Eligible women with children under the age of 18 may contact them about an upcoming trip July 18-25, 2017. Only the airfare has to be paid by participants, as the rest of the supercharged week-long trip is sponsored.
Aside from the many booths, there was entertainment all afternoon on the main stage, including headliner Dudu Aharon.
The love the Jewish community of Los Angeles bears for the Jewish people and Jewish homeland was palpable throughout all these events.