By Andrew Bosworth
As is customary at The Leffell School, the Yom HaZikaron Tekes held on Tuesday, April 28 was led by high school Tanakh teacher Rabbi Yitzhak Zilbiger. Despite the unusual circumstances, the ceremony was as emotionally impactful as ever, even over Zoom. After playing a video of the traditional siren in Israel with pictures of Israelis standing far apart on the street with masks, Zilbiger showed a touching video montage of Israeli soldiers in wars, commemorating this day of remembrance for fallen soldiers and those who died in terrorist attacks. Many of these pictures featured soldiers sobbing on the ground, mourning the loss of their comrades.
Leffell parent Renana Shvil shared the compelling story of her nephew, Second Lieutenant Yuval Haiman, who died in the summer of 2014: A young boy who lost his life defending the country he loved, a runner, and a great friend. He had volunteered to protect a kibbutz near Gaza. Haiman and two other soldiers were killed after holding off terrorists in order to protect the kibbutz. They all received medals for their bravery.
Next, Junior Sara Greenberg read the Yizkor prayer in Hebrew, a prayer imploring God to remember those who have passed, and to make their memory a blessing.
Afterward, senior Rachel Gustin spoke about Philadelphia teen Michael Levin, who uprooted his whole life to become an IDF paratrooper. Levin was given leave to visit his family when war broke out. After the visit, Levin returned to fight with his unit and fell in battle after the first day. “I have never seen someone love Israel as much,” a soldier who served alongside Levin said. He is buried alongside 3,600 other soldiers on Har Herzl.
Then, Junior Allison Kessler chanted the El Male Rachamin, praying for everlasting protection in the Garden of Eden as the resting place for all of those who died protecting their country.
The Tekes concluded with a montage of images of soldiers with much more hope than the earlier montage, with Avenu Shebashamayim playing in the background, the prayer for strengthening the land of Israel and uniting all together. The montage was followed by the singing of Israel’s national anthem Hatikvah with live footage from Israel, marking the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut.
To kick off Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, students chose three out of 20 different elective sessions to attend, all of which were relating to Israel. These 35-minute sessions ranged from trivia or cooking to history or virtual tours of marketplaces in Israel.
In one session, an online Pictionary tournament was held. The tournament embraced the joyous spirit of the day, as everyone laughed and shouted, “IT’S A TRAIN, IT’S A TRAIN!”
One could also learn about Israel’s receding water levels during one of these breakout sessions, and about how processes in Israel save water. Science department chair Vivian Nadasdi spoke about inventions such as drip water irrigation and desalination, as well as new laws that the rabbis have put in place banning the pollution of water sources.
Following the Leffell School sessions, the program switched to a live-stream of the Worldwide Celebration of Israel’s Independence Day. It began with the song One Day, followed by Joshua Malina praising Israel’s innovative approaches in battling the coronavirus pandemic. A video was then shown about the Israeli science community, who has made new inventions to aid in fighting COVID-19, such as new artificial intelligence to determine when the pandemic will end, as well as testing new antibodies on shrimp which have many similarities to humans.
Next, Rita, the Israeli Pop-Star, sang Yom Echad Ze Yikreh, One Day It Will Happen, about having hope that in the future ‘it’ will come, either a cure or aid for the crisis. Then footage was shown from the torch lighting ceremony at Har Hertzel this year.
After that, four Israeli chefs in America shared their favorite falafel memories and talked about how to make a proper falafel sandwich in a pita. “Don’t eat it with hummus, put it on a separate plate with pita”, Chef Yossi said. Chef and author of the “Sababa” cookbook Adeena Sussman, along with a fellow from the Jewish Agency in Maryland, taught how to make a proper falafel and green tachina. “If you don’t get a little messy, you’re not doing it right”, said Sussman.
Issac Herzog, Chair of the Jewish Agency, took viewers on a tour of Israel, from the Negev to the Galilee, ending with a recording from David Ben Gurion from his last address to Israel as Prime Minister, with a message of hope for the future, Then, Mark Wilf, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, shared his story about his first time landing in Israel, as well as the story of his grandparents.
Following this, the Platt brothers, Jonah, Henry, and Ben, sang an arrangement of Ahavat Olam in both Hebrew and English.
To conclude the program Israeli President Reuben Rivlin spoke briefly about the terrific strides that Israel is making, and that was followed by a rendition of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, performed by musicians all over the world and sung by Cassie Levy and Rita.
!הג יום עצמאות שמח
Happy Independence Day!