Jews across the world experienced an emotional roller coaster commemorating the successive holy Yoms of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day).
The week began mourning the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, followed by a day to remember and honor those who gave their lives protecting Israel and then a full-scale celebration of the miracle that is the Jewish state. Gone is the somber mood as fireworks replace sirens in Israel. Some may wonder how we can go from the saddest day to the happiest day? How do we go from despair to joy so quickly?
The juxtaposition of darkness to light is the miracle of the Jewish people. These holy days intertwine the past, present and future. Jews do not move forward without remembering the past. Israel’s independence is due to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives.
This remarkable transition from sorrow to celebration is the source of great strength, reflecting resilience, hope and belief. The Sefer Yetzirah says that “the existence of darkness underscores light, emphasizes the yearning for it.” The darkness of Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron help us appreciate the light of simcha on Yom Ha'Atzmaut.
On April 21, HAFTR High School commemorated Yom HaShoah with a powerful schoolwide Zoom in which students and faculty recited psalms, learned Jewish laws, heard words of inspiration from teachers and listened to testimony from survivors who expressed the role emunah (belief) had in their survival.
On April 28, Yom HaZikaron, HAFTR paid tribute to the fallen soldiers by listening to several HAFTR alumni serving in the Israel Defense Forces speak about protecting the Jewish homeland.
In the afternoon, students and faculty gathered on the front lawn to recite psalms and watch the flag lowered to half-staff. HAFTR marked the transition between the sadness of Yom HaZikaron and the joy of Yom Ha'Atzmaut by breaking out Color War 5781.
The themes of this year’s color war were two concepts mentioned in Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, which have shaped and defined the Jewish people: tikvah (hope), and Zion (Jerusalem). Jews celebrate as one nation sovereigns of their own land and to hold onto the hope that with God’s help there will be the Beit Hamikdash (First Temple) in Zion.
The next day, students and faculty donned blue and white, representing their teams, Tikvah and Zion, respectively. Students competed against their classmates in events such as gaga, musical chairs, relay races, basketball tic tac toe, Torah Bowl, Israel Trivia, Brachot Bee and Minute to Win It, as students performed unusual and tricky tasks in under a minute.
On Friday, the most awaited competitions in the grand finale event took place. Each team presented both the alma mater and Hebrew theme songs that they had written and rehearsed. The songs were heartfelt and related to the students’ experiences at HAFTR High School as well as their team’s theme.
As each team sang, they displayed the immense achdut, (unity) of all HAFTR High students. The teams also presented their banners accompanied by words of Torah and inspiration, STEM projects, and comedy videos, all of which reflected the tremendous effort and creativity that students put into this year’s color war.
All the seniors from both teams united to sing their own alma mater about our shared happy times and our sadness to be saying goodbye. The judges had extremely difficult decisions to make as all the final presentations were spectacular. Team Zion came out victorious.
Yom Ha'Atzmaut Color War 5781/2021 promoted ruach, (spirit), and achdut, offering students an opportunity to connect with one another and share their talents and skills while planning, cheering, laughing and engaging in fun competitions. It was the perfect culmination to such an emotionally wrought week.