To overlook the juxtaposition of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut is to miss the symbolism of so many things in our world. In the United States, we have separate holidays – Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. In Israel, the honoring of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism immediately followed by the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day is symbolic of tragedy linked to joy, where one sadly does not exist without the other. In an expanded view, it encompasses the overarching opposites of our world – evil and good, crisis and calm, hate and love, terror and peace, death and life, power and powerlessness, bondage and freedom, fear and understanding. We live in a world of opposites, in a world where one ‘side’ values one thing, and the other ‘side’ values its opposite. Each side acts to protect and defend its opposite views. Israel acts to protect and defend its right to exist. Other entities act to protect and defend their beliefs that Israel does not have the right to exist.
The blessing of being a member of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is the opportunity to work toward making those opposites less polar. Through support of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) and Youth Aliyah villages throughout Israel, and through our advocacy efforts in the United States, Hadassah members and other supporters work every day to shrink the gap. Through the support of Hadassah, together with Hadassah International, HMO extends its reach even further with its global humanitarian work. This is exemplified by HMO’s current on-the-ground efforts to aid Ukrainian victims, expanded at home by the taking in of refugees by Youth Aliyah villages in Israel.
Focusing on HMO, it’s impossible to separate its history starting more than 100 years ago in Palestine from the history of the development of the state of Israel. They are inextricably intertwined, not only by the building of the fundamental healthcare infrastructure and the ongoing and extraordinary medical care and research, but also by the decades of emergency treatment of all those fallen soldiers and victims of terror. They are connected by the tragedy and joy that these two holidays represent.
Why do I feel so connected to Israel, to Hadassah, and to these two holidays? Who could have known that a kind and seemingly small act of a friend of my mother many decades ago would ultimately became an indirect yet significant gift to me? The act was the simple invitation to a Hadassah program in New Jersey. With no particular connection to Zionism during her upbringing, my mother Jacqueline (Jackie) Rubenstein accepted the invitation, and the seed was sown. It blossomed into my mother’s leadership roles in Hadassah and led to my parents’ trip to Israel in 1968, just one year after the Six-Day War.
One year later, after I had outgrown my summers at a Jewish overnight camp, my parents enthusiastically sent me to Israel on a summer teen program. I cannot tell you what my direction might have been had I not gone on that trip, but I can tell you what it most definitely was as a result of that “summer of ’69.” I was hooked, connected, linked.
I returned to Israel two more times in the following five years, including a college semester living in Jerusalem. As my career grew and my husband and I had children, it was decades before I reconnected in a tangible way, although I never disconnected in my heart.
When my husband and I relocated with our two young children from the Washington, DC area to Huntsville, Alabama, and having grown up in New Jersey near New York City, I wanted to meet other like-minded women, and particularly Jewish women. Once again, a simple invitation to a Hadassah program changed everything, just like with my mother.
Given the opportunity to become a leader within the Huntsville chapter and subsequently in the Greater Atlanta (Georgia) chapter, I embraced the opportunities to engage with, and then mentor, and lead, so many women and supporters, as well as raise funds and advocate with our combined voices.
As I rose through the ranks to the region and national levels of Hadassah, that little spark of an invitation my mother accepted that grew into a flame for a few years and then sat quietly as an ember for decades, was fanned and nurtured back into a flame that has been burning for more than 30 years.
Getting back to the two yomim when we observe the tragedy and celebrate the joy, it is incumbent upon each of us to lessen the gaps of the opposites each day in our personal lives and in any way we can as part of collective voices and actions. This is what being part of Hadassah has allowed me to do, and what I have become in the process has no price.
To learn more about the work of Hadassah aiding Ukrainian refugees, visit here.
To learn more about Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah villages, visit here.