Jewish celebrations are complicated. They demand room for reflection as well as rejoicing. And of course, there is a tendency among North American Jews to view Israel's Independence Day as the birthday of "that place over there." Yet, the broad consensus is that in the past 2,000 years, the establishment of our State is among the most remarkable events in Jewish history.
For leaders of the Jewish Agency's Israel@60 programming and Makom, Israel’s sixtieth anniversary underscores a longstanding challenge: How to bring home the celebration of Israel’s independence to North American Jews?
At recent events including workshops in Makom communities, a CAJE conference, and a P2k meeting in Israel, key themes are beginning to emerge that bring this spring's landmark celebration to life—and bear an impact on strengthening the depth and spirit of the North American connection to Israel. Planning is also underway to develop Israel independence celebrations for other Diaspora communities from the former Soviet Union to Latin America.
A central idea, given expression in a new workbook, Chag Haatzmaut : Blueprints for the Jewish Festival of Independence, is that Yom Ha'Atzmau't may be called Chag Ha'atsmaut. Of course the holiday already spans two days, beginning with the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and the transition to the celebration of Israel's Independence. But it also has all the elements of a Jewish holiday—symbolic action, reflection, and experience.
The concept is being disseminated through a broad range of media—including a film produced by Makom that is gaining popularity in communities all over (see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2042141595796415683). Other resources in production include fiction, music and community celebration suggestions and guides.