By Elana Dure
Maryland Hillel staff members collaborate with university students to plan a commemoration ceremony and celebratory event in honor of the two consecutive Israeli holidays, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
Yom Hazikaron, also known as Israel Remembrance Day, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, will take place on May 5 and May 6, respectively.
The Yom Hazikaron commemoration ceremony, to be held in the Stamp’s Colony Ballroom at 7 p.m. on May 5, will honor Israel’s fallen soldiers as well as the country’s civilian victims of terror, said Yael Gertel, the Jewish Agency fellow to Maryland Hillel. Meanwhile, Yom Ha’Atzmaut will be celebrated the following day with Israelfest, the Jewish Student Union’s annual mega-event on McKeldin Mall.
For the first time at the University of Maryland, the Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebrations will be part of a larger, weeklong series of events honoring the State of Israel, Gertel said.
“The purpose is to touch upon modern aspects of Israel while catering to different communities on campus, both Jewish and non-Jewish,” Gertel said.
The commemoration ceremony will feature a cappella performances from Rak Shalom, Kol Sasson, and Mezumenet, the three Jewish a cappella groups on campus. In addition, students will read the famous Israeli poem, “The Silver Platter” by Nathan Alterman, as well as recite several prayers, said freshman Arabic and government and politics major Jacob Magid, a student on the Yom Hazikaron planning committee.
“We want to take time for people to reflect what it means to them here in America and thank the soldiers who have given their lives to the state of Israel,” said Magid.
The somber tone of the event will later transition into one of celebration as the sun sets and Israel Independence Day begins. According to the Jewish calendar, the start of the new day begins at nightfall.
The havdalah, or separation ceremony, between the two days will mimic that which is done in Israel, Gertel said. The community will honor those students who plan to move to Israel within the coming year, as well as break out into song and dance.
Israelfest, on the other hand, is a larger event meant to educate the general student body about Israel’s diversity in a fun and interactive manner, said the one of the Jewish Student Union’s Israel chairs, Sara Fay Goldstein, a freshman American studies major.
“We really want to show that yes, Israel is a Jewish state, but it’s so much more than that,” Goldstein said. “That’s why we are really trying to incorporate a lot of diversity and a lot of student groups who have a presence in Israel.”
A wide variety of student groups ranging from the Armenian Student Union to the Catholic Student Center will participate in Israelfest.
“I’m really excited to bring Israel to Maryland,” Goldstein said. “I think we can all learn from each other and share cultures… It opens doors for dialogue about a lot of things we don’t know about.”