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04/27/2020 05:43:56 PM


Rachel Kastner

Hello, North Woodmere!

Rachel(i) Kastner here, writing to you from quarantine in Israel. 

I have been living in Tel Aviv since mid-November - and I still miss Gilbert Place, North Woodmere and the US very much. I think of my home across the ocean every single day. I do take comfort knowing we are all in this together - and that we are experiencing similar situations. The schedule of working from home has made the time difference a bit easier, allowing for more freedom to connect with family and friends, so that's one positive thing to come from this time in quarantine.

I'm writing to you at the start of a very special week for Israeli society, and just want to share some of those sentiment during Corona times. It is perhaps the most special week of the entire calendar year to be in Israel as this week we commemorate Yom Ha'Zikaron (Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror), followed by a celebration of Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). Unlike Memorial Day in the US, which is marked by retail sales and BBQs, Yom Ha'Zikaron in Israel has a more solemn and communal tone. It is marked by two sirens followed by moments of silence; many ceremonies, families visiting cemeteries and every TV/Radio station in the country with special programming. Broadcasts telling the stories of those who have died for the State of Israel. 

(All this has definitely made me wonder why Memorial Day in the US isn't respected more. Is the country too big? Or is it just that it is impossible to conjure the level of connectedness that Israelis (and also all Jews) feel for each other? I lean toward the latter explanation, but I still think we could do a better job in the US on Memorial Day). 

Yom Ha'Atzmaut is celebrated with parties, concerts, BBQs, picnics, and flag dances in every neighborhood. Of course, this year will be different. The government will impose a full lockdown - in which nobody can leave their homes except to grocery shop in their neighborhood. This is perhaps the first time in Israeli history that there will not be a full commemoration of Yom Ha'Zikaron or celebration of Yom Ha'Atzmaut. And if we were in the US, I don't think it would matter too much. So, we couldn't go Memorial Day shopping or see July 4th fireworks. Annoying, sure. But deeply upsetting? Not so much.

Here, there is a very different attitude. Even those who respect the severity of the situation and the need for lockdown are voicing genuine sadness and concern that these days will be missed. Every single TV channel has been discussing it all week. You can't escape the sadness that Israeli society is collectively experiencing not being able to properly grieve and respect the memory of those whom we have lost. In a way, the extreme sadness is really beautiful. 

I work in the TV industry, and so I have been especially privy to it: Every TV presenter, news channel, and even the entertainment networks like MTV are coming up with what feels like "plan B" - programming and specials to ensure that Israelis can still feel what they are supposed to be feeling this week. Not for any commercial incentive or ulterior motive, but because this is what it is to be a part of Israeli society. 

I was very much looking forward to being here for these meaningful days. I am now equally sad for the missed opportunity to experience the sense of communal mourning followed by communal celebration with my new neighbors. But that will have to wait for next year. In the meantime, on Tuesday, I will wear white and tune in to the TV specials to watch the documentaries and interviews with parents of fallen soldiers, and then on Wednesday, I will wear blue and white, and tune in to the live-streamed concerts and dance parties from home. It's the best we can do. And especially as someone who is passionate about media/television/movies - I think it is a very powerful plan B.

I write all of this just to share with you a taste of what life is like in Israel this week, and to join in on the North Woodmere Zines - thanks, Jordan! Always has been a special community and glad to be a part of it, even from all the way over here.

By: Rachel Kastner

Wed, May 25 2022 24 Iyyar 5782