Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Day of Cows invasion*

* or, "they tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat."

In the United States there is Memorial Day. Ostensibly to honour our fallen soldiers, it has turned into the "official start of summer", the day to barbecue, the day the pools open, etc. Somewhere along the line, the "memorial" part of the day has been forgotten.

In Israel, we have Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), immediately followed by Independence Day (Yom HaAzma'ut). Yom HaZikaron, as I mentioned in my previous post, is a somber day. Even the boys' school where we have Ulpan, there was a ceremony honouring the fallen soldiers. Some of the boys had lost brothers and fathers; it was hard to see these normally boisterious, obnoxious, inconsiderate boys sobbing in the arms of their teachers and classmates. It was even harder to look around the room and wonder which of these boys was going to become a picture on the screen someday.

We mourn, we cry, we remember. Then we say "enough." Enough crying, enough pity, enough sadness.

במותם ציווי לנו את החיים
(basically, "By their deaths, they order us to live")

At the end of the day of Yom HaZikaron, we hand over the sadness to celebration, to Yom HaAtzma'ut. Benji Lovett of What War Zone says Yom HaAtzma'ut means, "go to a park and eat a cow." He's not far off. But before you barbecue, you party! In Modi'in, one of the parks was taken over by a stage, kiosks, popcorn stands, inflatable hammers (it's a thing), glowing necklaces, noisemakers - I felt like I was at a mini-Lallapalooza! We went to our friends' Dena and Moishe, whose mirpeset overlooks the park, giving us a bird's eye view of the whole event. The featured acts of the evening were Rita, one of Israel's most famous singers, and of course, meat.

The thing to understand about Yom HaAtzma'ut: it's all about the barbecue. Whatever can go on the BarB, does. Wherever you can fit a BarB, you do. The day of YhA (I'm tired of writing all that out), we went to my sister's in Jerusalem. Her husband stood behind the grill nearly the entire time cooking:

Goose breast
Chicken (both regular and tandoori)
Veal sausage
Chourizo sausage

I've never seen so much meat in one place at one time.

To get to their house, we had to drive down Ben Tzvi, which is a major thoroughfare running alongside a large park, Gan Sacher. At one point, while marvelling at all the cars parked hither and yon - anywhere there was space - I thought there was a fire. A huge cloud of black smoke was billowing across the road. As we got closer, I realized the smoke was the result of about thirty bajillion barbecues all fired up at once. Seriously, Yom HaAzma'ut is the barbecue holiday. It sucks to be a vegetarian on YhA (although I was extremely impressed at the veggies a vegetarian friend of Pamela's brought to the barbecue! Impressed, and grateful).

After all that meat - and not being a big meat-eater, I limited myself - words cannot express how relieved I was that when we went to friends in Rana'ana for dinner on Thursday, they served fish!

What a way to experience our first Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAzma'ut in Israel. It was momentous. And I just can't think of a better way to honour and celebrate our fallen soldiers than by first, remembering them and thanking them, and then full-on enjoying the lives they protect and the land they defend to the absolute maximum.

No comments: