The Yoms to Me

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Eitan Sadeh, shaliach and teacher for The Jewish Agency, on why he is bringing the Israeli way of marking the Yoms to Manchester.

This year marks the 13th year that I spend Yom Ha’atzmaut in the UK. Yes, I’m counting. It is always around Pesach that I start to feel the distance enhancing, and then it gets worse as days go by.

Yom Hashoah (the Israeli Holocaust memorial day), is the beginning. I look at my watch at 10am Israel-time knowing that the whole country is now standing still, while here there’s nothing.

Then is Yom Hazikaron, the memorial day for the fallen soldiers. With the lead up to these emotional 24 hours, the atmosphere in the whole of Israel builds up – or should I say, goes down. All you hear on the radio or watch on TV are heroic stories about fallen soldiers and about victims of terror attacks. On the day, every single person goes to the cemeteries, no matter whether you knew someone who had fallen or not. And I did. You see, I have a brother who is buried at the military graveyard and for years I shared those moments together with my family, and now I don’t anymore. It’s that feeling of emptiness that is so difficult to describe.

And then it’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. When I was young I used to celebrate for 24 hours straight and tried not to miss a thing. From the celebrations at the centre of my little town, Tiberias, to sitting on the Kinneret beach, doing an all-nighter around the bonfire and singing all those patriotic songs of the homelands, eventually ending up watching all of the ceremonies on the TV. While here, there’s nothing.

In my latter years, as a soldier, I had the honour to participate in the torch-lighting ceremony on (Israel’s national cemetery) Mount Herzl, which was an unforgettable experience. For four weeks I marched and rehearsed next to Herzl’s grave.

That is probably why I felt the urgent need to do something here in Manchester. Hence, I wanted Yom Ha’atzmaut here to be celebrated in the most Israeli manner. I decided that celebrations needed to be held outdoors, the performances had to be by Israelis and the whole celebration to be like a carnival.

May I add, I am not complaining about England; it’s a different country and it’s not their fallen soldiers, it’s Israel’s, and it’s not their independence day it’s ours. But there is no reason why we can’t tie the two together and celebrate our independence from here!