In an editorial in the Australian Jewish News on 17 April it was written as follows:
“it’s a matter of concern that there is relatively little communal focus on Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance for Israel’s fallen soldiers, on April 27.
Without these heroic figures, we would not be celebrating Israel’s 61st Independence Day. The day also memorialises Jewish victims of terrorism.
The annual commemoration has always drawn interest from Israeli expats, but these events should attract greater numbers from the broader Jewish community. The question is how this commemoration can be given more impact.”
Perth, Australia’s third largest Jewish community that seems to be off the radar of the national Jewish press, may just have the answer!
Last year for the first time, the Bnei Akiva Shlichim organised a whole of community commemoration and tefillah for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. A crowd of 400 to 500 people turned up, including all Zionist Youth groups, the school, shules, and also included the participation of many expat Israeli’s (consistent with the sentiment of the AJN editorial).
This year a similar event is being organised, part of a momentum to make this event an annual fixture. Even bigger numbers are anticipated.
What is unique about the way this is organised, is that the gathering is one of a tekes for Yom Hazikaron, flowing into a tefillah chagigit for Yom Haatzmaut – but the event does not then explode into the Yom Haatzmaut celebration. This big party will however still occur the next day in an even bigger community concert and carnival that may attract up to 2,000 people or more.
The solemnity of the Yom Hazikaron allows us to identify with Israel, and to honour those who gave of their life in the protection of the Jewish homeland. To then daven Maariv and Hallel with hundreds of people in a very moving environment provides so much more emphasis on the still emerging significance of Yom Haatzmaut itself – Reisheit Smichat Geulatenu.
There is a strong religious emphasis on the night of Yom Haatzmaut by using this time exclusively for an event focussed on Tefillah. By not having the distraction of a big dance party to immediately follow, or a hurried push to break out into celebration, our focus remains on the miracle of Israel itself. That is not to say that this format does not match the time honoured Jewish tradition of mixing sadness with joy, or instantly breaking from a tone of solemnity to one of great rapture, but rather an extra degree of sincerity and reflection is placed into the commencement of the Yom Haatzmaut chag itself. In truth, we derive greater joy and happiness through the tefillah. (Dare I also suggest that a communal tefillah is certainly is more engaging than a stage show where we just sit and watch colourfully dressed dancers twirl the hora in front of us to music and lyrics even when they have no idea of the meaning of the words…)
A further element to mention and very strongly respect is that this year the Perth community will celebrate Yom Haatzmaut B’zman, in its correct time and on its correct day. In previous years our State Zionist Council has organised the event to be at a different time, primarily to attract entertainment that is visiting Melbourne or Sydney on Yom Haatzmaut itself. Due to the halachot and minhagim of Sfirat Haomer, this has been to the exclusion of religious Jews. Not so this year. JewglePerth sends a big commendation and thank you to the organisers for ensuring a fully kosher and inclusive celebration of Yom Haatzmaut itself.
Perth has always been a strong Zionist community. The influence of a religious Zionist element within the community is rapidly increasing, and in doing so, is adding a huge amount of value and meaning to our celebration of Israeli nationalism. It is a wonderful phenomenum to be a part of.