For some statistics on Israel's population today see:
David and I drove down to Mitzpe Ramon to celebrate Independence Day with our children and grandchildren there. The super-rainy winter left the desert greener than usual and we took full advantage of the phenomenon. Here's what the roadside looked like.
We arrived in Mitzpe Ramon just in time for the ceremony marking the transition from Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron - see below) to Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). It was nicely done beginning with words by the Rav Tzvi Kostiner of Midbara Kaeden Yeshiva. Tehilim were read and there was a presentation about bereaved families and fallen soldiers. After the flag was raised to full mast we had presentations by the local music ensemble and the kindergarten children danced for us with flags and balloons. Then we sang Hatikva and went inside for a festive evening prayer. This year there were two separate venues for the ma'ariv, one at the Yeshiva and one in the community synagogue in the local elementary school. I am overwhelmed by the realization that I live in a time and place where we are thanking Hashem for a miracle that we are witnessing. I find it hard to put into words.
Then, as with so many other Jewish holidays, went home to show our appreciation for the miracles that G-d sends us by eating!
In the morning, after the shaharit (morning) service which included Hallel and a leisurely breakfast (in commemoration of Sundays in golus/New York :)) we organized ourselves for a trip to the local swimmin' hole. Because of the generous rainfall this year (a blessing from Hashem, part of which we witnessed on the very rainy Shabbat HaGadol just before Pesach) there is a rather large natural pool of water right down in the Ramon Crater about 10 minutes drive (can also be done by hike or bike) from Mitzpe Ramon. It was a bright sunny day and my son brought a beach umbrella and mat so we were able to spend over two hours at this amazing attraction (unshielded from the sun you really want to leave after about 10 minutes). So sunscreened and with lots of good spirits we enjoyed our 'beach' outing. We even had ices!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, busy family members were setting up the traditional Bar-B-Q without which no Yom Haatzmaut is complete. We were joined by many friends and neighbors of my children including families who had once lived in Mitzpe and returned to visit. Everyone was in a good mood although I don't know where the kids get all their energy.
David and I still had one more stop we wanted to make on our celebratory itinerary. We wanted to see the new site of the Atzmona (the pre-army Torah learning and training program for religious boys which was uprooted from Gush Katif) community where one of our sons teaches and plans to live. So off to the western Negev we went.
And then we went to have coffee before the drive home and say hello to the rest of our grandchildren in the temporary housing of this community in Yated.
Happy, tired and feeling really blessed we returned home to Rehovot.
What a week!