It's a small country.
Immediately after Yom HaZikaron comes Yom HaAtzmaut - Israel Independence Day - celebrating the birth of the modern State of Israel 62 years ago.
In Baltimore, there are community and school-based programs. Yeshivat Rambam the most Zionist school in Baltimore, and the school where we've been sending our kids for years, has an annual Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaAtzmaut program.
This year's program was our last, and a few memories are worth preserving. The Yom HaZikaron portion of the program at Yeshivat Rambam typically opens with high school girls telling stories of soldiers lost in Israel's many wars. This year I heard that President Nixon's mother used to tell him bible stories when he was young. She once told him that someday, he would be very powerful and he would be in a position to help the Jewish people. At a crucial time in the Yom Kippur War, PM Golda Meir called President Nixon in the middle of the night, begging for US support for the war. According to this account, Nixon recalled his mother's words and signed an Executive Order authorizing Israel to get whatever was needed to turn the war around.
Once Yom HaZikaron ended, the program transitioned to a celebratory Yom HaAtzmaut, featuring daglanut (flag dancing), adorable Israeli songs and more.
For the past 6 years, the end of the evening has been the highlight for me. Yeshivat Rambam honors those families who are planning to make aliyah in the upcoming months by calling them up onto the stage to light a candle. Every year, I applauded wildly while my friends and community members were called up onto that stage on Yom HaAtzmaut, to inspire others, to show others what it looks like to publicly announce that the future of one's family is in Israel.
This year, it was our turn.
It was an impressive group of singles and families, most with 4 or 5 children, up there, all off to meet our destinies in Israel. Yeshivat Rambam did a lot to bring the feelings of Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut to Baltimore. Clearly, hours and hours of effort, coordination, creativity and spirit went into the evening. I applaud the effort. But in the end, honoring these uniquely Israeli days 6,000 miles away cannot match the feelings these days engender in their natural habitat. No matter how hard the programmers worked to capture them, we are simply too far removed from the real thing to experience the fullness of these days while sitting in Baltimore.
In the end, it was yom, yom, far from home.