Beverly Goldenberg writes how she will be celebrating her 74th birthday in Israel with her husband, Mickey, during Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
My Israeli husband, Mickey, and I are on our way to Israel. We will be celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s 74th birthday in the “hatzar,” the yard, of the home where Mickey grew up and his family has lived continuously since 1934.
Independence Day celebrations in Israel, in the yard, are a long-held tradition. It is a festive gathering for the extended family and friends. Israeli flags decorate the entrance gate, the home, and the yard. The barbecue continuously produces displays of a variety of delicious meats. Visitors bring salads and accompaniments from pitas to desserts.
The day is highlighted by stories, sing-alongs and even dancing. We excitedly board our plane anticipating the joyous day to be with Mickey’s family. Israel and I will both be celebrating birthday number 74.
I am a post-World War II baby. I, too, was born in the spring of 1948. Growing up in Detroit, my mother made sure our joint destiny of birth dates was a fact that I was keenly aware of with each passing year. We, Israel and I, were new, exciting entities hoped for by my mother: I, the gift from my father’s recovery from severe World War II wounds; Israel, the hoped-for Jewish state that arose from the ashes of the Holocaust.
My mother was a passionate, proud Zionistic Jew. Each year, she announced, “You and Israel are celebrating your 10th, 16th, 21st birthday (whichever one it happened to be). Little did she know then that our joint destinies would become more firmly tied.
When I graduated from college, free to go anywhere, I decided that this was the time to visit the mysterious place that shared my birthday. I signed up for an ulpan (Hebrew immersion program) in Israel on Kibbutz Mayan Tzvi. My college roommate, Debbie, prepared me for my forthcoming adventure. She taught me important words in Hebrew: ice cream, bathroom, please and thank you.
I have now visited Israel many times, yet the initial impressions of awe of actually seeing the land and places that I learned about, heard about and studied can never be forgotten. The phrase “So, this is …?” repeatedly played in my mind. “So, this is a kibbutz?” “So, this is Jerusalem?” “So, this is the Western Wall?” Where Jesus walked? The blooming desert? The “Skadia” (almond tree) that we sang about on Tu b’Shevat? Seeing Israel itself with my own eyes, I attempted to bring my experiences and visions into sync with my imagined images.
I also discovered something new, as well: the Chagall Windows at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. On a tour of this amazing world-class research hospital, I was smitten. I fell in love with the windows. I had no idea then that Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which supports this hospital, would become part of my life and that I would bring items for the hospital on my visits, and become a life member. On subsequent visits to Jerusalem, I always insisted upon driving to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem to see my beloved windows.
Meeting My Sabra
Upon my return home, despite my scoffing at my mother’s suggestions, I did go to the Jewish Community Center, where she said I would meet a nice Jewish boy. Oh, those mothers are always right! However, the nice Jewish boy was not a young American professional lawyer or doctor as my parents had expected. In 1976, at the Israel Independence Day celebration at the JCC, I met Mickey, an Israeli sabra (a native Israeli, as they are called, because, like the sweet cactus fruit, they are prickly on the outside, but sweet on the inside).
In 1978, I married Mickey, adding another dimension to my ties to Israel. My connection to the land and people of Israel expanded as we became a bicultural, bilingual family, and me, a part of Mickey’s loving, supportive, extended family.
My birthday twin and I have a lifetime of experiences to reflect upon; the joyous and the sad. We have marked celebrations together, raised families, progressed technologically. We have both lost friends and loved ones along the way. Dor l’dor, now, my own children, Etai, a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker, and our grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, have their own ties and intimate connections to their father’s homeland, their Jewish homeland, my mother’s passion.
On Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance/Memorial Day), the day before Israel’s Independence Day, we will honor those who lost their lives, so that we, Israel and the Jewish people, could be safe, protected and free. We will stand in silent tribute, stopping all activity when the sirens blast for a moment of silence. As the day closes, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, (Independence Day) Israel’s birthday, will begin.
Together with Am Yisrael, I will sing, dance and celebrate the anniversary of meeting my husband and both of our birthdays. As the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” (the Hope) proclaims, Israel and I will rejoice together as “free people, in our Jewish homeland.”
L’chaim to both of us!
Beverly Kent Goldenberg of Huntington Woods has been a life member of Hadassah since 1968. She is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled statewide.