Yom HaAtzmaut in Jerusalem

My last post gave a recap of the first two holidays in the period of the Yamim in Israel: Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. The holiday that concludes the 10-day period of the Yamim is Yom HaAtzmaut – Israel’s independence day. The first 8-days of the Yamim – from Yom HaShoah to Yom HaZikaron – are incredibly sad, and the sorrow associated with these days seems to accumulate into one national day of enormous grief on Yom HaZikaron. How abrupt, then, it seems when the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron and the transition to Yom HaAtzmaut is immediate. Mourning turns into celebration, and the streets are filled with parties, dancing, and huge inflatable hammers (an odd holiday tradition). In line with the rest of Yom HaZikaron, the transition from sadness to joy is marked with a tekes (ceremony). The tekes Noah and I attended was at the Tahana Rishona, and the ceremony was led by a group of reform rabbis, interspersing prayer with song, readings, and stories.

IMG_7669

The tekes ended after the sun had set (and, thus, the next day – Yom HaAtzmaut – had begun), and Noah and I hit the streets with a few friends:

IMG_7703

I wasn’t kidding about everyone being on the streets to celebrate! I thought Purim was a big party, but that was seriously nothing compared to Yom HaAtzmaut.

Near Ben Yehuda street, we stumbled upon a huge rave of sorts with a ton of people smushed together dancing to a DJ:

IMG_7684 IMG_7687

Also, the streets were full of small pop-up shops selling holiday paraphernalia and, of course, inflatable hammers!

IMG_7701

Noah and I bought an Israeli flag cowboy hat:

IMG_7733

Most of the people in the streets were wearing some sort of Israel swag and/or carrying flags, and it was fun to see some of the more clever outfits…are you rooting for this team yet? 🙂 :

IMG_7710

After spending a while in the Ben Yehuda area, we made our way to Safra Square where there was another large crowd of people (basically everywhere was just one continuous large crowd with some even larger crowds collected in some areas…) :

IMG_7723

Safra Square had a line-up of several bands playing all night, and people were collected there from about 9pm-3am dancing and listening to music.

At midnight, there was a fireworks show that we watched from Gan HaAtzmaut (Independence Park):

IMG_7690

Noah and I were back home a little before 2am – which would be considered early by most! This is definitely a night for celebration!

When we woke up in the morning for Yom HaAtzmaut day, we had plans to celebrate the holiday in typical Israeli fashion: with a BBQ. We have a friend from college who is from Israel, and some of his extended family lives on a moshav about an hour from Jerusalem. They host an annual Yom HaAtzmaut BBQ, and our friend invited us. There was no messing around at this BBQ – there was freshly cooked and deliciously seasoned meat as well as a large selection of salads and sides:

IMG_7736 IMG_7737

It was quite the feast!

One small anecdote that I think highlights the cultural pervasiveness and celebration connected with this holiday: in the days leading up to Yom HaAtzmaut, during the Yamim and even a bit before, Israeli flags started appearing everywhere – literally, everywhere. Buildings had flags from their balconies, windows, and along their sides:

IMG_7618

And many of the cars on the roads had flags attached to their windows:

IMG_7617

I even saw some cars with Israeli flag covers attached to the back of their side mirrors!

In some ways, it was odd how quickly and completely the transition from Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut happened, and some people have told me that for families who have lost someone close/recently, it can be very psychologically difficult to feel that they need to make the transition so abruptly. At the same time, it was incredible to see what this holiday means to Israelis and what the celebration looks like here. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 4th of July parade and BBQ, but the atmosphere in America on 4th of July is nothing compared to the feeling of complete euphoria that fills the Israeli streets on Yom HaAtzmaut. Maybe it’s a being-a-new(ish)-country thing, maybe it’s a is-my-future-secure(?) thing, maybe it’s a people-die-for-this-country-all-the-time-so-we-might-as-well-celebrate thing…I’m not sure. But I can definitely say that this was one of my absolute favorite days in Israel this year and I hope I can be in this country for the holiday in the future.

IMG_7738

 

See my post on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron here

 

Advertisements

Spoon-lickin’ V-Day

This was a delicious Valentine’s Day. Primary gifts – both given and received – focused on food. After much debate on what I could give that would appropriately relay my devoted girlfriend status, I decided to make chocolates with handcrafted wrapping. 

To start, I melted dark chocolate chips and prepared the toppings:

IMG_3117 IMG_3119
Chocolate melts fast, so I made sure to have everything prepped and ready to go before I turned on the heat. After the chocolate melted, I quickly poured it into a parchment paper-lined bread pan (I would not recommend a bread pan to use for this, it just seemed like the best option from what was in my kitchen). I wanted to make the chocolate into four bars, each with one of the following toppings: banana chips, almonds, white chocolate chips, and hot and spicy pepitas:

IMG_3121
It’s important to get the toppings on the chocolate fast, otherwise it may start to harden. Once the toppings are firmly on the chocolate, I put the pan in the freezer while I cleaned up licked everything.

IMG_3123 IMG_3122
I left the chocolates in the freezer for about 30 minutes (if I did this again, I would probably leave them a bit longer) and then took them out, cut into four pieces, and started on the decorations! My idea was to wrap each chocolate in foil and create a paper wrapping to go around that – similar to a hershey’s.

IMG_3125 IMG_3126
I tried to come up with cute sayings to put on the wrapping…some worked a bit better than others. 🙂

IMG_3127 IMG_3130IMG_3128IMG_3131
In the evening, Noah and I went to a dinner at Eastwood Nature Center in Osseo, MN. The evening included a meal, swing-dancing lessons, time to look around the nature center, and a visit with the center’s owl (definitely a highlight!). Eastwood decorated beautifully, and the tables for dinner were set with heart candles and flowers.

IMG_3134 IMG_3135 IMG_3136
The meal itself was fairly basic and served buffet style: turkey, salad, green beans, and potatoes:

IMG_3137 IMG_3138 IMG_3139
Swing dancing was definitely the highlight of the evening, but I was too busy groovin’ to take any pictures.

The next day, food gifts continued when Noah bought all the supplies for us to make a fruit tart! 

Wow – this was quite an endeavor! The whole process took about 6 hours. The cream had to chill for 3 hours, the dough for 90 minutes, and there was a lot of baking/resting/freezing time. Finally, it was time for us to actually cook the crust. Getting the dough into the tart pan proved a bit of a challenge as we didn’t have a rolling pin, but we managed to do alright! Before and after baking:

IMG_3142IMG_3143
Once the crust was cooked and cooled, it was time to get rolling with the filling. After chilling in the refrigerator for several hours, the cream needed no extra preparation and all we had to do was pour it into the crust:

IMG_3147 IMG_3148
Then, we got to work chopping berries and creating a glaze by heating jelly on the stove:

IMG_3145 IMG_3144 IMG_3146
And finally…

IMG_3149 IMG_3150
This thing looked good, if I say so myself. The cream piece of it really does seem to be an art though, and ours didn’t hold together quite so well…

IMG_3151
I’m not complaining though. It was delicious!

Did you eat anything great for Valentine’s Day?