Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Nation Wide Sirens"

In other countries the term "nation wide sirens" is not heard all that much. In fact, of all the places I have lived in I have never heard the term before. In israel, this practice is common. SInce I have been here there have been four such nation wide sirens: one as a drill test, one for holocaust memorial day and two for Yom Hazikaron - memorial day for the fallen slodiers. On Sunday at 2000 the first of two days of national mania started. A nation wide 1 minute siren alerted everyone to the mournful 24 hours ahead in honor of all of israels war dead. On Monday morning at 1100 there was a 2 minute nation wide siren to usher in the day of mourning. Again there was no television as channels went off the air. On the radio all that could be heard were melancholic songs. We went to a memorial service in Rabin square where we heard a whole bunch of bands (none of which recieved applause after their sets) performing for fallen soldiers. People all over were crying and the mood on the streets was palpably tragic. When the show ended at 11, about 5000 people slowly walked home. The silence was deafening.

On monday night at about 6-7 the mood rapidly changed. Peoples tears were slowly turned into jubilation at the onset of Yom Hazmaut - Independence Day. Bars opened and the alcohol started freely flowing. The same stage that had been used as the focus of sorrow on Rabin square was quickly turned into the centre of a celebration of independence. Fire works, live music, people cheering. Kids all over the city were spraying some sort of foam and hitting eachother with little squeeky blow-up hammers. Then at around 11pm the nightlife took off. semi-illegal parties sprouted up all over Tel Aviv (basically people with gardens and/or roofs charged an entrance fee and served warm beer for a small price). Everywhere you went you heard blasting music and felt the party atmosphere. Because its the only secular holiday nationally celebrated by Israel, the religious can travel and "work". On teusday, the city woke up to the smell of burning charcoal and shishlik as people all over found parks in which to relax and celebrate israeli independence by barbequeing.

The sudden change from mourning to celebration was an interesting socialogical event in itself. What made the whole thing even more pensive for me, is that israel's neighbours mourn on Yom Hazmaut - a day they collectively call "The Catastrophe". For me the images of arabs crying over their lost land on the same day jews celebrate the fact that after 2000 years they are finally the masters of their own fate, put the middle east conflict into a bit of a perspective. Our holiday is their tragedy. So is the fire-born history of nations.


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