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Jewish Journal

24 Hours in Tel Aviv

Sharona Rosen, alumna of Masa Israel's Young Judaea Year Course

September 20, 2011 | 12:02 pm

It is the 3rd of April around 10 P.M. and the city of Tel Aviv is more alive than ever. People are walking the streets, laughing and talking. Then suddenly a siren sounds, and the city freezes. It is Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, and every single person, whether walking or driving, stops what he or she is doing and stands for a moment of silence in respect of the soldiers and families affected by war. One minute of nationwide silence and prayers, and then the city is back to normal.

It’s the 4th of April, 11:00 A.M. and the cities of Israel are bustling. Like any normal morning in the city, people are rushing to work, cars are honking, and people are walking, talking, and laughing.  Then suddenly a siren sounds. Rapid silence rushes through the streets of Israel, and again, everyone gets out of their cars, stops whatever they’re doing, and stands for a moment of silence in respect of fellow Israeli citizens, family, and friends who have been affected by wars. Though the scene can be described, I know that until I experienced it during my gap year in Israel, I never truly understood it.

At 11:00 A.M. on the morning of April 4th, I was standing on a bridge above the highway. Thirty seconds before 11, cars began pulling over on the road and people began getting out of their cars to await the siren. Chills rushed through my body as I experienced a sense of unity and spirituality that I had previously not known. I was sure that this was the most amazing sight in the world—until later that evening.

Even after living in Israel for close to nine months, I had never seen Tel Aviv shut down—neither at 9 P.M. nor 5 A.M. Tel Aviv is usually rustling and bustling—except on the night of Yom Hazikaron. Every single café, bar, restaurant, store, corner store, gas station, supermarket, and pharmacy was closed. The quiet confused me at first. There I was, trying to find a place that was open for dinner when I arrived at Rabin Square. It was packed with over 50,000 people, Israelis and tourists alike, who had come together for a memorial service. Once again, I was struck by the unity in the city. Not only did the whole city participate, but the instant the speeches began, the city was silent. Not one cell phone went off. Not one child cried. Not one person spoke. Everyone stood still and listened. The city mourned together.

Morning of April 5th: Tel Aviv is itself once again, except for a few details. The streets of Tel Aviv are filled with music, and only 24 hours after the day of mourning, the Israeli people celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. The mood is celebratory now, but much remains the same. The feeling of national unity is alive in Tel Aviv.

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A blog by Masa Israel.

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