<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=930614130981484&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

How do they do it? I’ve always been in awe of Israeli’s ability to transition from the very somber Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance for Israelis fallen in battle and terrorist attacks) to the following day’s celebratory Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations. On Yom Hazikaron, the entire country slows down. Somber music is played on all of the radio stations. Solemn remembrance ceremonies take place at cemeteries across the country. You can feel the sadness in the air, of remembering lost ones whose lives were cut short. A siren goes off and the entire country for one short moment stands together in silence, in remembrance of who has been lost.


And then with nightfall, almost as if with the flicking of a switch, the sadness is tucked away and the party begins: fireworks, barbeques, picnics, concerts and beach parties galore. All in celebration of another year of Israel independence. Another year that the miracle of Israel, birthed out of war, tribulation and a 2,000 year yearning to regain the ability of being a people in control of its own homeland, has survived.


Yet this year’s observance of Yom Hazikaron and Ha'atzmaut will be unlike any other. For many in Israel, every day since October 7 has felt like a Yom Hazikaron. Many Israelis have stopped saying “boker tov” - the ubiquitous “good morning” greeting and instead provide a grudging “boker” (morning) in its place. How can there be a “good” morning when loved ones and friends are fighting a war and hostages have yet to be returned from Gaza? For many, though the public calendar may indicate that it's spring and time to celebrate Ha'atzmaut, their own personal calendar and sense of time is stuck at October 8. What is a country, a people supposed to do that is stuck in remembrance and feel that their very independence is on shaky ground?


And then I remember what it was like to be in Tel Aviv this past fall on October 26, 19 days after October 7, the day our youngest grandson was born in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. My wife Lori and I were taking care of our five-year-old and two-year-old grandchildren, awaiting for the news that their new sibling had been born.  I walked our grandson to his preschool where I was met by one of the preschool parents. Hesitantly, the parent told me that after much soul searching that they had decided that despite the situation, that it would be okay to hold a birthday party for their just turned five-year-old son and that our grandson was invited. I received a text message that the party was for that afternoon at 4:00 p.m on the outside grounds of Susan Dalal. The invitation included a map of where the bomb shelter could be located, since daily air raid sirens and accompanying booms from rockets being shot down by the Iron Dome were still common in Tel Aviv back then in the early stages of the war (and as they still continue in other parts of the country). An example of Israeli resilience and hope. In spite of war, rockets and tragedy, a five year old still deserves a birthday party.


And so does a 76 year old country. 


Israel’s national anthem HaTikvah means “The Hope.” As a people we know that despite the endless tragedies, we will endure, survive and even thrive as a people. We are a forward looking people who have never lost hope. The fact that after 2,000 years of wandering, Israel was able to come into existence is not to be taken for granted. Not to celebrate this miracle in our lifetime, inspite and to despite the current situation, is to provide our enemies with an undeserved victory. 

And so despite the war, the still very raw, still unfolding tragedy of October 7, we will celebrate this year’s Yom  Ha'atzmaut – be it a bit more subdued, and look to the future with hope.


Jeffrey Lasday is the senior chief of external affairs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. His son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren reside in Israel.