Arnie and Phyllis Cohen spent most of May 2016 in Israel. Read the article below that describe their emotions, and those of Israelis, surrounding Yom Maatzmaut (Israel Independence day).
In the second article, the Cohens describe a charming encounter with an Israeli.
Before leaving for Israel, we had read that Independence Day is a nation-wide event celebrated all over the country and we hoped to join in.
In Jerusalem, the eve of Yom Ha-Atzma'ut was amazing. We headed for Ben Yehuda Street and saw many thousands (not exaggerating) of people buying neon lit tchotchkes, drinks and snacks from vendors, while bands on temporary elevated platforms every block or so were playing music. The revelers were waving small Israeli flags and some had wrapped themselves in giant ones. We passed a group of ultra-orthodox men who were dancing together to their own music coming from players perched atop a van.
A few blocks away at Safra Square, on a much larger stage, 5 musicians were playing old, spirited Israeli pioneer songs we knew, and many hundreds of people were dancing the hora -- they were a mixture of old, young, black, even Asian. It was very inspiring and the message seemed to be "We have prevailed and we will prevail!" We left the square at 9:30 p.m. around the time the fireworks began, but understand that the celebration went on until early morning.
The next day, on Independence Day, at the Israel Museum, another gathering spot, we saw, among others, many observant families with their four or five kids and strollers enjoying the performers and music. One of the high points was several flyovers by the Israeli Air Force and it was thrilling to see the Star of David on the jets’ fuselage and to know that the pilots weren't Chuck and Buzz but Avraham and Shmuel.
Outside the museum area, other thousands had gathered to have BBQ's, which is a tradition here that day.
We feel we should point out that we saw no unusual security measures – just joyful people.
While in Tel Aviv one Friday, we awoke from our late afternoon nap at 5:00 p.m. and it was still light outside so we realized that if we wanted dinner we had better find a restaurant since many were closed on Shabbat. Dressing quickly, we walked the neighborhood passing one still open -- a tiny pizza and pasta place we had not noticed before. The proprietor told us he was leaving in 40 minutes so we asked if he still had time to prepare a take-out meal of salad, pasta and garlic bread.
As he quickly began chopping and sauteeing, while doing a Dervish whirl amid the spotless pots and pans hanging in his small cooking area, he told us about himself. His name was Shimon, his parents were from Iraq and had raised him and his 7 siblings in Acre in the north of Israel. One of his brothers was his partner and they each worked alone in the store on alternate days. As Shabbat drew closer, we asked how he was spending it after he closed the store and his face turned beatific as he answered "We are having dinner with my sister and her family." He went on to describe their close relationship.
What instantly struck us was his spontaneous and genuine enthusiasm and even glee as he cooked and chatted. We were so charmed by the adorable moment that we impulsively included an expensive bottle of wine in our order and then asked if we could take his picture. We did.
As he handed us our savory dinner in lidded containers, he offered to lend us wine glasses which we could return two days later on Sunday, before our flight home – but only if we promised to come back to tell his brother how we enjoyed the food.
We didn’t need the wine glasses, the wine and food were delicious – and we did go back to leave our report with his brother.
In Israel, yet another colorful thread had been added to our shared ancestral tapestry.