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Yom Ha’atzmaut beams light into darkness

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Amid the darkness from the loadshedding that swept through Glenhazel on Tuesday evening, 25 April, beams of light emanated from Yeshiva College as the Jewish community came together to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.

With this year marking 75 years of Israel’s independence, the South African Zionist Federation pulled out all the stops to celebrate.

As families with kids of all ages and groups of school friends entered the school grounds, they were greeted by friendly smiles and flags. The area overlooking the field was decked with food stalls selling anything from coffee to soup, to Chip n Dip. One side of the large field had huge, colourful jumping castles and rides, the other a stage for the entertainment.

The first couple of hours was occupied mostly by younger children running around exploring the rides while it was still light outside. Many also sprinted to the tables of toys being sold, and one young girl excitedly turned around to say, “They got us gifts!” An odd surprise was a giant mascot of Marshall from Paw Patrol wandering around the field.

When the sun began to set, the music became louder, the crowd became larger, and groups of older kids and teenagers made their way to the field. In addition to music from The Kiffness and DJ Sona, there were showcases from all the Jewish schools, including flag shows, singing, and dancing.

The South African Friends of Israel hosted a competition for creative renditions of Hatikvah. The audience was able to experience snippets of diverse and soulful tributes to the Israeli national anthem in a uniquely South African context.

Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein spoke about the connection that the Jewish people have to Israel, saying, “As Jews, we know this is the right G-d has given us. It’s our history, this is who we are, we don’t need the approval of others.

“Ultimately, our sense of who we are, our legitimacy, comes from our values, our history from a source that’s much deeper than the approval of anyone else. And that’s an important message for us as the South African Jewish community. We say with pride, ‘This is who we are. We have a sense of history. These are our roots.’”

The event celebrated the joy and solidarity of the South African Jewish community as well as Israel’s independence. As you walked through large, bustling crowds, you were bound to come across a familiar face wherever you went, strike up a conversation, carry on walking, rinse, and repeat. Small groups of people who walked in together became groups of 50 people dancing together on the field, waving flags in unison.

After the mourning and commemoration of the deaths of Jewish people on Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron this past week, this event encapsulated the light, hope, and unity vital to the preservation of our community.

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