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my first yom haatzmaut as an israeli

My First Yom HaAtzmaut as an Israeli

— Josh Benadiva, Excel Business 2015

To quickly introduce myself, my name is Josh Benadiva, Excel class of 2015, and I made Aliyah after graduating from college and am drafting to the IDF in July. The first thing that comes to mind as an oleh chadash (new immigrant) is the contrast between Memorial Day here in Israel and in the US. Here, it is a day of serious reflection and mourning that everyone participates in because everyone has someone that is on their mind.

For me, although thankfully no one I knew personally has fallen, my heart and thoughts immediately goes out to my fellow lone soldiers who fell. Hearing their inspirational stories and determination is part of the reason I came here, so it is easy to envision myself in their shoes, to see my mom crying alongside theirs. The day forces everyone here to recognize the price we pay to have a safe Jewish homeland and that we have a responsibility to carry on the legacy of those passed.

Every day, and especially on Yom HaZikaron and HaAzmaut, we live for them.

As for Yom HaAzmaut, in minutes following the ending of Yom HaZikaron, the atmosphere flips to one of celebration and happiness. People have cookouts, party all day and night. It’s a lot of fun.

As this is my first Yom HaAzmaut as an Israeli, it’s tough to say if it’s just because it’s the 70th year, or if it is usually like this; right now there is a clear sense of, “look how far we’ve come, how much we’ve achieved.” No one thought Israel was going to last 70 days much less 70 years, so this year seems to have an especially strong sense of reflection. Zionist songs from the past 70 years were constantly playing on the radio, commercials on TV featured collective memories throughout the years, and everyone was talking about the amazing accomplishments we’ve had as a nation.

Although I’m an oleh chadash, and haven’t been here long enough to help build the country yet, as much as I experience the collective anguish of Yom HaZikaron, I feel the unified accomplishment of passing 70 years as a thriving state.

Josh Benadiva participated in Excel in 2015. He graduated from University of Chicago in 2017, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics with a minor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. On campus, he was involved in The Blue Chips, Maroon Capital and Alpha Epsilon Pi. During his summer with Excel, he interned as an M&A Analyst at EY Israel, and he made aliyah after graduation, where he is preparing to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces in July.

My First Yom HaAtzmaut as an Israeli was originally published in Birthright Israel Excel Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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