For the first time in my life I spent Yom Haatzmaut in Israel. This is a very big deal and is extremely different than anything you experience outside this country. For one, the previous day is of complete mourning (and is not just the thirty minutes preceding the beginning of Yom Haatzmaut). However, the transition is rapid, "מאבל ליום-טוב*", "from mourning to festivity". People somehow easily make this transition. Also the country is completely insane during the holiday for reasons I will mention shortly.
After Yom Hazikkaron, or rather in its waning moments, I went to the Great Synagogue to hear the tail-end of Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar who was speaking on something about Torah Learning winning us the Land of Israel or something like that... I came at the end so I don't really know. Anyway, his talk was followed by Maariv led by Chief Cantor Naftali Hershtik and the Great Synagogue Choir using Festival nusach (melody). They also did Hallel, various other psalms, Shofar Blast (done very well by Eli Jaffe), and Prayer for the State, Prayer for the Armed Forces (both of which done before an open ark accompanied by actual soldiers in uniform while the choir was softly singing the melody of Hatikvah. Services ended with Shir HaMaalot in the melody of Hatikvah followed by Hatikvah itself. This is unlike America where Conservative Jews just add Al Hanisim and Hatikvah at the end. In Israel it's a much bigger deal. Even the Haredim who were burning trash cans yesterday in protest to Yom HaZikkaron, IMHO, made it look like they were just lighting giant memorial candles.
Following services I joined up with some friends to go to a comedy club where one of our friends was performing a ventriloquist act. It was hilarious! Sara N. and I left after his act to check out the Ben Yehuda scene. On the way, she bought a rubber hammer (with built in whistle) and I purchased an Israeli Flag magnet pin that lights up in blue (funny story about that momentarily). We went down toward Kikar Tzion, trying to avoid the kids that were attacking each other and passersby with shaving cream, confetti, and rubber and plastic hammers (apparently a Yom Haatzmaut tradition that is equivalent to fireworks in America) to meet up with some other people. Meanwhile we checked out the concert down there where there were already thousands of people grooving to the music. Amidst the fireworks surrounding us from the skies of the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, we heard the music). At some point as I was trying to show off the magnitude (literally and in a sense the word is never used for) of the magnet of my pin, by putting the flag and the magnet on either side of my earlobe. It worked for a couple of seconds, but then the magnet detached and fell into the crowd. It was dark and there were many people there. I decided to look for it anyway, and even though it only cost 7₪ (about $1.56; the exchange rate has improved for Israel a lot 4.48), it still was a nice souvenir and a patriotic thing to wear (along with my bracelets and my Ben Gurion (short-sleeve dressshirt and jeans). So thirty minutes later (after an on-and-off, I thought I saw something circular and glinting. In true sitcom style, I reached for it and feet came my way so I backed away and it wasn't there when the feet moved. People backed out of my way and some Israeli kids helped me out. One found it, gave it to me, and then asked me to dance with them. So I did. Israelis are awesome and the concept of sabra is such a truism. They have an exterior that seems rough, but they are really just sweet and awesome people.
I went to get frozen yogurt shakes with Menachem Ej., Sara N. and someone else, followed by a trip to the bar scene off of Ben Yehuda. I actually never knew of this place until last night. The area, known as Rivlin street, reminds me a lot of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. Egons, which I would compare to the Leaky Cauldron is the gateway to the real nightlife area of Ben Yehuda, namely, a plethora of bars. After going through this area and considering a place called Sollys or something like that on the Diagon Alley for Alcohol Drinkers (seriously, instead of Flourish and Blotts they have a place which you can get blotto, because its all bars... maybe an exaggeration...). Anyway we ended up back at Egon, I don't want to say anything bad about it but I am unable to make hakeret hatov and find anything good. I admit that it was the busiest bar night of the year, but the service was wanting and our waitress was flustered. That and there were little kids there doing things that nobody should be doing in public. Still I had a lot of fun there. On the way home, I was attacked by tweens who got me with shaving cream. I was absolutely covered. I was jibed at by passersby (which I returned with a smile), but it was for a good cause, for rejoicing on Yom Haatzmaut, and I was glad to be a part of the festivities. Thank God I ran into other people I know so I walked with them, still covered in shaving cream (which made it a lot less embarassing). After waiting for the hot water and taking a shower, I went to bed at 3 something in the morning.
I woke up at 9, davened Shacharit (with Enhanced Psukei D'Zimra (à la Hoshannah Rabbah), Al HaNisim, Hallel, Torah, Haftarah, all that jazz. I then went out to meet Sara and Menachem at Kikar Tzion to take a sherut to Tel Aviv (only ₪20!) we then joined up with Deborah B. and took a bus to Petach Tikvah for PICNICkelodeon. We arrived toward the end of the main concert. I brought a huge deli roll with me and myself and Menachem devoured it, but not before sharing a churro among the four of us (so excited, I miss Mexican food).
Among the celebrants were Bobspoog, the Israeli incarnation of Spongebob Squarepants. They sang a lot of Israeli songs, but I didn't notice any Israeli flags within the park. I did however joke that with all the orange (Nickelodeon's offical color) I didn't know whether I was at a Nickelodeon event or an Anti-Disengagement (also in Hebrew or Yiddish) Rally (which also use orange as their official color). Sara responded and said that the palm trees covered in orange linen made her think she was in Gush Katif. The ladies played on the playground equipment while I watched their bags. There were at least three Capoeira groups performing. It was totally worth the trip and I had a lot of fun, and got a little more tan.
So that was my Yom Haatzmaut. Not your average Independence Day, huh?
*(can anyone identify the source for this mini-quote?)