Our Sacred Days

Throughout the EMIS school year, our student body has encountered various holidays in their distinct forms. Perhaps one of the most consternating of efforts came from our failures to understand both meaning and context of most Jewish holidays.

However, this last month in a half has been filled, at least in one’s personal belief, in a rather distinguished light. It was an odd air, an indescribable nuance to the atmosphere around us.

On the 23rd of April, the student body was let loose for the day of Israeli independence, an ever changing festive period. Besides our gracious vacation time, we were also delighted by the lights, culture and bonhomie of the country during this time. It almost seemed like the entire country was painted in a cheerful mood.

However, how could fireworks, music and dance share any resemblance to what the holiday was meant to signify? The holiday is celebrated on the day of Israeli Independence, when in 1948, the, Zionist, Jewish state was created. However, the week leading to the climactic celebration is filled with memorials to soldiers, death and war. As one abject, Yoav Bar-ness explained, “This is the week of sadness.”

And yet, it is all topped off with a rather inconsistent jovial finality.

Perhaps even more exemplary of the seeming polemics behind this last month is that of Nakba day. A Palestinian holiday, Nakba Day takes place on May 15th to commemorate the Palestinian casualties and refugees resulting from the very same Israeli Independence. The title of the holiday itself means, “Catastrophe” and our own Palestinian students commemorated the event by wearing the traditional Palestinian scarf, a Ha’ta.

It is a positively enduring scene to witness, almost like the mournful sorrow of a full-fledged funeral.

Here lies the ultimate discourse which at least some of the EMIS students must have felt. It is the great stigma which seems to have dominated much of our, (If not only my…) stay in Israel. The great division.

Little can better contextualize the rift in opinion which has been drawn on the EMIS grounds. It has played a pivotal role in debates, discussions and even some classes, which have been somehow connected to the struggle outside of our school walls.

Outside from calling it left and right, as some might do, it is safe to see, there is a dichotomy, a polar separation within some opinions in our school. Nakba day and the Israeli independence can perfectly solidify this point.

Even worse, nearly 3 weeks ago, myself and two other students chose to visit the Weizmann Institute Archives. We were volunteers hoping to aid in the translation of Chaim Weizmann’s writing and found the experience, I duly say, interesting. However, one painting in particular drew my eye’s attention in the archives. In one of the principal offices stood a painting, drawn most obviously by a child, judging from the crude demeanor. It depicted Weizmann himself, with a golden key, unlocking the gates to the holy promise land of Israel.

It was a severely adorable and endearing picture, colorful and heartwarming overall.

However, I knew deep down that someone, if not millions could find this innocent depiction as vile, even obscene. I could only imagine what an equally innocent Palestinian Child would have drawn in the same situation.

This was the perfect example of the difference, the great divide in opinion that I have seen all year. How someone’s belief can be, without a doubt, the most horrendous of sins for another. How an innocent intention can appear to have the most violent of implications.

Here lies the conflict in all its glory. All lies for one are all truths for another.

Yet, in my despair, I came across some piece of hope.

Seeing and honestly questioning both holidays, I brought it upon myself to ask my fellow students, the puzzling question:

“What is the purpose of Nakba Day/Israeli Independence Day?

I had expected a stigmatic, derision of each other. I had expected banter and accusations of the anterior side, one attempting to condemn the other. But I was rather grateful to hear something much more, benign.

Beyond Inbar Moran’s rather apathetic, “Barbecue,” I found that most accounts seemed to stem from a similar, exact word:


It may seem to you, obvious that a holiday would elicit an answer such as this, but to me it resembled something far more important. To me it resembled an overarching truth to pain, to people and humanity.

These holidays, they all had a different purpose, but there intentions were all the same.

The holiday, as a concept, as a symbol, a powerful time and emotional tool was the same, almost as a human quality, among these people, who brought different answers all together.

When you’re young, it’s to not go to school and have barbecue. Have the best alcohol with your friends and forget why it’s bad Israel is here. Remind you why your loved ones did not die in vain. Remind you why death is not in vain.

            To celebrate the fact that we have our own country, our only country. Remind ourselves of how hard it was to come to this. A lot of people sacrificed for this.

            A memorial day, remembering, confirming that we will stay in this land, which our grandfathers lived in, even when it is occupied by Zionism.

            A memorial day for the loss of thousands of people by Israeli occupancy forces and the loss of our land.

            The day you remember all the fallen soldiers and we rejoice in our success and gratitude for us being able to live in our own country with our common values and principles.

You may see the conflict, or the clash of opinion here. But you must also note the symbiosis, the similarities these beliefs also owe. They are a similar emotion, the same root.

In Ecuador, there is a plethora of holidays, but one resonates particularly well as an example. On the 1st and 2nd of November, the “Day of the Dead” is celebrated with tradition food, but most of all a ceremonial visit to the cemetery. Some more zealous people may even traditionally sleep over night on the graves of their ancestors.


The point of these morbid customs are all to commemorate, to remind ourselves of pain, loss, joy, emotion in general. They are enchanted days, tokens of the past, of the history, which has long preceded us.

While they may be distinct, we all share our attachment to the past, to time which we commemorate. These: our sacred days.

That is a holiday. It is to draw from the sacred history of your own life or that of your people. We charge days with a hue of gold, an intrinsic value, un-measurable in nature.

It is a human quality, to hold something sacred, to sanctify the past, to glorify anything, anything at all. This gloss, this aroma of emotion, it almost seems to define us human beings.

Whether it be a mournful salute to lost lives, a funeral of tragedy, a celebration of victory, or even a birthday of a loved one, we are emotive beings. The past calls to us in endless ways, and apart from the present, ever stretching forward, perhaps there is good to remind ourselves of the past.

Whether it is of violence or joy.

Written by Carlos Sevilla

Edited by Maria Tirnovanu

Copy edited by Emily Perotti

Photo Credit

1)  Maayan Agmon

2)  http://el2-noviembre.blogspot.co.il/2013/11/dia-de-los-difuntos-2-de-noviembre.html


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