A Time To Laugh, A Time To Weep (Continued)
Yom HaZikaron immediately preceeds Yom HaAzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Like the States, it is a holiday of barbecues, friends, family and fireworks. It is our day of rejoicing, of laughter, after our day of mourning. The juxtaposition of Independence Day with Memorial Day is a stark reminder of the cost of freedom, and I sensed that our celebration of Yom HaAzmaut contained a defiant undercurrent of "We're still here!"
Liberty Bell Park
From our mirpesset, I could stand in the freezing cold the night that the holiday started and watch fireworks explode over Mt. Herzl to the west. The Boy joined his friends and wandered around Kikar Safra downtown, spraying each other and total strangers with the ubiquitous foam, listening to the live bands and chowing down on hamburgers.
The next day, we joined Yossi and his family for a barbecue in Liberty Bell Park--a park that actually contains a replica of America's Liberty Bell.
We passed Gan Sacher, the huge park that surrounds the Knesset and the Israel Museum, on an early-morning errand--at 0700 it was already filling with people. Yossi's parents staked out a spot next to the Montefiore Windmill under the shade of some ancient olive trees, while Yossi got the grill and we schlepped over pargiot(little chicken breasts), steak and potato salad. Our friends brought enough pita, houmous, and various salads to keep everyone well stuffed until late afternoon. The kids all grabbed a camel ride on a passing camel, while the Husband and I strolled around the windmill and through the adjacent neighborhood of Yemin Moshe, whose gardens were in full bloom.
By late morning, the park was filled with people, everyone staking out table and blanket room on the ground. Early birds like us got trees--latecomers took whatever space was available. Ours was not a big group -- the Iranian-Jewish family next to us brought their own minyan. The folks to the northwest of our spot were serious campers: they had a BIG table with BIG comfortable chairs; a tent for the little ones to nap in; a barbecue on an upright stand for easy grilling; a water dispenser which they tied to the olive tree shading their table; and even more food than we had. The families across the walkway were equally well equipped and seized a spot strategically near two olive trees, and set up the volleyball net before setting up the barbecue. Our Boy and Yossi's kids spent the day, except for the camel ride, kicking around a soccer ball or chasing each other with more spray cans of foam. It was exhausting just watching them.....
The adults ate, schmoozed, had some beers, sat under the shade until a breeze blew up and then adjourned to an unclaimed sunny spot immediately north of our table. Between cooking and talking, we returned runaway soccer balls from all points, met some nice dogs (leashed), talked to new olim from France in the spot to the east of us, compared recipes, discussed our kids, got sprayed in our kids' foam battles and suffered more spray from passing bands of other kids chasing ours in retaliation for their attacks, and at times, just sat soaking up the sun in silence.
During the late morning, all activity in the park came to an amazed halt as we watched the Israeli Air Force do a spectacular fly-over of Jerusalem: low altitude, with contrails and lots of engine noise. The kids loved it. So did the adults, although we are more aware of why we need an air force in this neighborhood.
We raised our glasses to freedom and to the Jewish State and thanked G-d we were here to celebrate that freedom, a sovereign people in their own land at long last.
photo credits: Yemin Moshe, by RomKri of Jerusalem Shots; Liberty Bell Park, by Pes & Lev of Jerusalem Shots