In Rosh Ha’Ayin, a quiet Israel Independence Day

Editor’s Note: Rosh Ha’Ayin is the Partnership2Gether community for the Birmingham and New Orleans Jewish communities, and the official sister city in Israel for the city of Birmingham.

Dear friends,

76 years of Independence. But it’s the saddest Independence Day ever.

How can we celebrate when we lost so many soldiers, security and police forces, civilians who happened to be in the wrong place (their homes…) in the wrong time, innocent children, young people celebrating life in the Nova festival and so many more.  How is it possible to celebrate when so many are still held hostages in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza? How can we celebrate when hundreds of thousands are displaced? Refugees in their own homeland?

This year, Independence Day celebrations in Israel are controversial.

It has always been hard to shift from Memorial Day ceremonies to the joyous celebrations of Independence Day, moving from deep grief and honor of the sacrifices of those who came before us, to celebrating the establishment of the state of Israel.

This year many of us find it hard to celebrate our hard-won achievements amidst the catastrophe we still live in since October 7. It seems that after 76 years we are still fighting for our Independence and legitimacy to have a homeland where Jews can live in peace and security.

We’ve paid a heavy price since Oct. 7 and we’re still paying. But we have no choice — this is our country and we will defend it, we will defend the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice. Israel is our only place and we have a moral responsibility to bring back our hostages and bring security to our citizens in the south, north and everywhere here.

Rosh Ha’ayin municipality, like others in Israel, passed a poll so residents could express and determine the kind of celebration they think is appropriate. This year it was decided, instead of grand shows, only young children will celebrate like previous years.

Most of us feel that it is not yet the time to rejoice. We need time to heal, to solve our internal conflicts as well as the threats that Israel is facing. But we are resilient and we are here to stay.

Facing anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance around the world is just another reminder to why we are fighting and why we are here to stay.

Am Israel Chai!!!!!