Day 10: Cohort X

Tree Planting – May 5, 2022

By Laurie Young

May 5, 2022, was our last day in Israel. Those in the United States may have been celebrating Cinco de Mayo, eating tacos, tortilla chips, pico de gallo, and drinking margaritas. However, those in Israel were celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut or Israeli Independence Day. Please understand Israeli Independence Day is not always from May 4th to May 5th. It is celebrated on the 5th of Iyar, the eighth month of the Jewish Calendar (or the day or two before so the holiday is not celebrated on Shabbat). Israel is a country governed by the laws of Judaism and its collective memory.

The Cohort had been in Israel from Yom HaShoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut – 10 days. From a somber occasion to a joyful celebration. During this time my mind was challenged and changed. During this time, I began to understand the meaning of patriotism for a country. During this time, I began to understand being a Jew is more than a religion and a shared love of blintzes, bagels and pita and hummus. 

I took each moment of my time in Israel and brought those very heavy emotions to the celebration. Yom Ha’atzmaut is truly a day of celebration that the Fourth of July in the United States wishes it could be. Never on the Fourth of July do I think about what it means to live in the United States. I take it for granted that we live in a country where we have a right to speak out, we have a right to be who we are. However, Israelis do not take their country or their freedom for granted. Their freedom was celebrated with military plane fly-overs, a day at the beach (if you are in Tel Aviv like we were), barbecues and a joie de vivre. 

Life is celebrated in Israel. The Israeli citizens, from my perspective, have a true appreciation for life. They, more than any other group of people I have encountered, understand life is fleeting. They also understand life must go on in the face of hatred and adversity and – they make it happen. As Avraham Infeld discussed on our first full day in Israel, the Jewish people have a shared memory and the people of Israel are the “central warehouse” of Jewish memory. This was demonstrated throughout the trip. 

This trip was beyond memorable. It was extraordinary. It was a trip which will take many days or weeks or months to mentally unpack and process so I am able to determine what is next. Because there will be a next step. This mission trip was the catalyst to a future of engagement with the collective Jewish memory. What I do know now is I have been gifted with the knowledge and the memories to pass on to others and, most importantly, my children so they too will have the sacred keys to the central warehouse of Jewish memory. I learned on this trip, more than I could have expected, this land and the Jewish people will not only live – they will thrive. 

Thank you to all those who worked tirelessly before, during and after this trip to make it the most meaningful and valuable use of our time. We were guided by true leaders and, as a cohort, I hope we can continue the strength of this leadership.