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By zamorse

There is a ceremony on campus tonight (and all around the country) for Holocaust Remembrance Day and I thought this would be a good time to talk a little about all of the different holidays going on recently here in Israel. We are right now in the middle of the holiday season in Judaism and in Israeli culture, with at least five holidays in a three week period. Its nuts.

Last week was Passover, made famous by Matza or the unleavened bread that Jews eat for eight days. My parents came to visit, we had a nice banquet on the night of the holiday, and it was like spring break all over Israel.

Tonight is the Holocaust Remembrance Day, called Yom Hashoah (יום השואה) in Hebrew. It is Israel's remembrance day for the 6 million Jews that perished in the Holocaust. It is a day of mourning and reflection. Places of entertainment, like movie theaters, will be closed by law tonight. Flags are lowered to half-mast and it is customary to wear white.

Next Monday night is Israel's Memorial Day called Yom Hazikaron (יום הזיכרון) in Hebrew. The day is dedicated to Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. It is also a very somber day in Israel. A siren is sounded all over the country at which point Israel's stop whatever they're doing (including driving) and stand in silence.

Yom Hazikaron is immediately followed the next day by Yom Haatzmaut (יום העצמאות), or Israel's Independence Day. It is not on May 14 (when Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel in 1948) because it follows the Jewish calender, which is a lunar calendar, and changes dates every year. This, of course, is one of the happiest days on the Jewish and Israeli calendar. Ceremonies are held all over the country, especially the capital Jerusalem. More than ceremonies, there are huge parties held all over the country. There are Israeli flags everywhere in Israel right now on the streets getting ready for this outpouring of patriotism.

There is another holiday, Lag Ba'Omer int he middle of May. There is also one ongoing right now, called Sefirah (Counting of the Omer), counting the days between Passover and Shavuot (a harvest festival in June).

So to say that it is a hectic time in Judaism and here in Israel is an understatement. There is a lot going on, but I think it really speaks to how Israeli culture operates. One day is Memorial Day, one of the saddest days of the year, and the very next day is Independence Day, by far the happiest day of the year. So we'll see what happens.

By zamorse

This week was Passover vacation here in Israel. Passover is the Spring holiday in Judaism that celebrates the exodus from Egypt. It's a big family holiday for eight days, and Jews travel all over the world to be with their families and experience the holiday. It's know to most non-Jews by the unleavened tasteless bread that we eat, Matza. In Israel it's like Spring Break, people get days off from work, and the universities are shut down for the week. In the diaspora (outside of Israel), there's two seders (big meals) on the first two nights of the holiday, but in Israel there's only one seder. We went to my mom's friends house in Ra'anana to have the seder with their extended Israeli family.

My parents and grandmother came to visit this week since I didn't have school, and it's been really nice to see them. Instead of staying in Haifa near the university (which is shut down this week), we're staying in Herzliya, which is in the center of the country, just north of Tel Aviv, right on the beach. We rented a car from the airport and have been traveling all over Israel this week.

Today we went to Jerusalem and the Old City, went to the Western Wall and walked through the Jewish Quarter, then walked outside the Old City and had lunch at the famous King David Hotel. And what an interesting experience that was. Today is Easter, so the Christian Quarter was busy celebrating that holiday. It's Passover in the Jewish Quarter, and there are Muslim riots on the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter (2 people injured, 24 arrested just this morning). The Old City is a walled ancient city (.35 square miles) in the middle of Jerusalem and has four quarters. The biggest is the Muslim Quarter, followed by the Christian Quarter, then the Jewish Quarter, and finally the Armenian Quarter. So to say that a lot was going on today in such a small area was an understatement.

Yesterday we went to a museum in Tel Aviv. The day before we went to the oldest neighborhood in Tel Aviv to walk around. We've gone up to Haifa this week to see the university and walk around the national park across the street. We went to Yad Vashem (The Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem, and Beit Hatfutsot (The Diaspora Museum) at Tel Aviv University.

It's been a busy week, but it's been really nice seeing my family since I don't get to see them very much. And living in Herzliya this week is a totally different experience then Haifa---much less diversity, much more wealth, and many more Americans.

I've been to the three largest cities in Israel this week. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa---each with their own unique flavor and characteristics. And I've had the great experience of having my family come to visit me in my second study abroad location. Until next time!