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When Celebration and Tragedy Collide

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
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By: Rabbi Joshua Waxman

Today is Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, and we celebrate with Israel as it marks its 65th birthday.  In America, however, our celebration is muted by the horrific bombings in Boston yesterday which have claimed three lives and injured more than one hundred, many very gravely.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this vicious attack and their families.

For Israelis, the conjunction of celebration and mourning, rejoicing and tragedy, is nothing new.  Yesterday, when the bombing took place, was Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day — the day that commemorates Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, which leads directly into the celebration of Israel's independence the following day.  The message is clear: as we celebrate the founding of the state we cannot properly do so unless we acknowledge the loss and sacrifice that went into — and still goes into — building up Israel and keeping it secure.

In America, we have also been reminded all too often in recent years of the costs of a free country and of the dangers posed by those who would harm innocent people.  Like Israel, we must remember that the values and ideals we proclaim are far more powerful than the forces of those who wish to do us harm and that, even in the midst of grief, there is much to celebrate.

And so our joy and happiness is with Israel on this Yom Ha'atzmaut even as our hearts turn in sorrow and solidarity toward the people of Boston.

This post first appeared in a message Rabbi Joshua Waxman sent to his congregants at Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation in Fort Washington.

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