This last week was Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut. On Yom HaZikaron, students took turns learning by at a table with an Israeli flag and a burning Yahrtzeit candle, in memory of specific fallen soldiers. After mincha, two students - Mishael Zion and Josh Frankel - who both have served in the Israeli army - shared words and personal recollections. We ended with an Kel-Maleh and HaTikvah. The event was particularly meaningful because it was shaped by our students - Mishael, Josh, and also Eytan Yammer - all of whom served in the Israeli army - and one could sense the deep investment the student body had in this memorial.
The following day, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, started with a tfillah chagigit - a Shacharit and Hallel with musical instruments and dancing. This was followed by a morning of learning on topics relating to the state of Israel - first a talk by Rabbi Ysoscher Katz on the Satmar Rebbe's approach to the State of Israel, then a presentation by fourth-year student Zach Truboff on Rabbi Dovid Hartman's understanding of the religious significance of the State of Israel, and finally by a mini-shiur by fourth-year student Davidi Jonas on the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel, whether it exists and what were its parameters.
We had an Israeli lunch together - falafel! - sang Israeli songs, and then went out to the park for a game of kickball (a little American baseball meets Israel soccer?). It was a day of tremendous chevrehshaft, of group experience and bonding, and again, made that much more powerful because the students - this time, Chai Posner, Ben Vago, Zach Truboff, and Davidi Jonas - had been the ones to really shape it and make it happen.