Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Celebrating Independence

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have now entered the “Freedom & Remember” season. When it comes to Independence Day, Israel does it back-to-back. Fallen soldiers are honored on Memorial Day, which like Yom Ha’shoah is marked with sirens and on-the-spot, standstill attention. In typical Jewish time, as soon as the sun sets uncontrollable happiness breaks loose over having an independent state.

We all know that Israelis are openly expressive. They show off their joy through some goofy customs – like hitting people on the head with a plastic hammer, or squirting their neighbors’ faces with shaving cream. But, they do have another side connecting today with the Jewish yesteryear of long ago.

Like what? Here are two examples you might want to adapt to your classroom:

On cue, all Israelis take part in a Yom Ha’atzma’ut barbeque. “Big deal,” you’re saying to yourself, “Americans do that too on July 4th.” So here’s the BIG DEAL connecting Israelis with yesteryear. Remember all those Temple sacrifices that the Israelites offered for every holiday? While modern Israelis don’t engage in that ritual, barbequing fresh meat on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut can be viewed as the contemporary way of expressing thanks for having a modern Jewish State.
This is literally food for thought for you and your students. Have the cooks in your kitchen, or your PTA, grill some hamburgers and hotdogs and serve them alongside Israeli salads that the students can help prepare. Need some recipes? I found these variations of the classic Israeli salad:

• Another custom that bonds modern Israelis with their past is the annual televised Bible Quiz held on Independence Day. This is a VERY BIG DEAL, as the contestants are not only from Israel – they are young students from all over the world. So here’s another idea: hold your own Bible quiz and connect it with today’s modern Jewish State. How? Let’s say you ask a question dealing with King David. Have a map and picture presentation ready to show where the City of David is located and what it looks like today. You can do this with dozens of Biblical events and personalities. Let the Bible stories they’re learning about come alive through a virtual tour.

Customs aside, throughout this year I have been told by numerous teachers, librarians and parents that it is getting harder and harder to connect kids with Israel. They feel it’s a dangerous place. They have a good life in America and they don’t understand why they have to worry about having a Jewish State. There are numerous answers, but I’ll just give you a few.
Dangerous? Yes, I’ll agree that Israel is not located in the best of neighborhoods and terror is a threat. HOWEVER, throughout our 31 years living in Israel I don’t ever recall any Israelis going on crazy shooting rampages in schools or public places. Even better, by the time my kids were 5 years old they were going to the local grocery by themselves, sent there by me with a short shopping list. From first grade on, once they finished their homework I never saw them until suppertime because they were outside with their friends, playing without any adult supervision. Did I worry? Not at all.
The Good Life: We’ve got it as well. The country is dotted with malls, country clubs, and all types of entertainment venues – from movies to extreme sports. Plus, we have all the technology you have. In fact, you can thank us for some of that technology. Pass this on to your students: thanks to Israel, you have mobile phones and you text message on them. “WHAT???!!” you’re asking. That’s right, “Made in Israel.” And that’s just a tiny example of what Israel has given the world.
One BIG Mishpacha: Israelis certainly don’t behave like Americans. More like relatives who never hesitate to tell you what to wear, what to eat, why you should do this or that. And that is exactly the point. We are all one BIG mishpacha – family. You don’t need a direct blood link in Israel to feel like family. The warmth and hospitality is overwhelming…and if you need help, let me assure you that you will never feel at a loss.

I could go on (most Israelis tend to do that). But I’ll stop here and with unbridled pride wish you a Chag Atzma’ut Sa’me’ach!

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