One of the most amazing things about living inIsrael is that it is theplace where the Jewish calendar actually comes to life.
Beyond the religious experience, there are special days in Israel that are considered holy. One of them is Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, which occurred this year on April 15.
Yom Ha'Atzmautmarks the establishment of the modern Jewish state on May 14, 1948, when soon-to-be Prime Minister David Ben Gurion issued a declaration of statehood.
It was immediately recognized by the United States, the Soviet Union and other countries, though not by the surrounding Arab states.
This festival of independence is observed on the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in April.
It is preceded the day before by Yom Ha'Zikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. A day of national sadness and mourning is immediately followed by a wonderful day of festivities, when Israelis take to streets across the country to attend outdoor concerts, parties and barbecues, as well as to watch fireworks displays.
Yom Ha'Atzmaut features teenagers competing in the country's Torah championship, showcasing their mastery of the Hebrew Bible.
The Israel Prize, the country's highest honor, is awarded in a formal ceremony in Jerusalem to individuals who excel in their chosen field.
Just before Yom Ha'Atzmaut this year,exciting news camefrom Jerusalem. Natan Sharansky, chairmanof the Jewish Agencyfor Israel, presented aplan to expand theWestern Wall plaza in the Old City to include a new section for egalitarian prayer.
If implemented, the proposal will mark a dramatic acknowledgment by the state of Israel that prayer at the Wall should include and welcome a non-Orthodox practice in which men and women pray together.
For a number of years, women have been harassed and even arrested for praying at the Wall wearing a prayer shawl and reading from the Torah. Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women ofthe Wall, who recently spoke at Temple Beth El in Bradenton, expressed approval for the new proposal.
She said, "I don't want to sit in the back of the bus any longer. The time has come to resolve this issue once and for all."
Mazal tov to the government of Israel for coming up with this proposal.
The Wall is Judaism's holiest site and a modern-day symbol of national sovereignty.
It should always be a beautiful and welcoming oasis of peace and harmony.
On a personal note,I would like to welcome home Pastor AdamZele of Bradenton'sFirst United Methodist Church. Pastor Zele experienced the joy of being in Israel for Yom Ha'Atzmaut as an honored guest of the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation during its annual Interfaith Clergy Pilgrimage tour. Shalom, Adam!
We salute you, beloved Israel, on your 65th birthday.
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call 941-755-4900 or visit www.templebethelbradenton.com.