On Tuesday, May 2, the sunshine that took over New York during the weekend danced over Manhattan to make for perfect weather to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. Although fading in and out through clouds, sun continuously glistened over Washington Square park for the “Rave in the Park” event, hosted by Hillel at NYU. In light of Holocaust Memorial taking place last week, Hillel members from college campuses all over the city came together to celebrate the momentous day, and stand with each other to express their love for the Land of Israel.
With the somber mood that had taken over during the prior week with schools and communities taking part in remembrance of the Holocaust, members of the Jewish and Israeli community used this day of celebration almost as a cleansing, washing themselves of the sadness that comes with honoring those who died in the Holocaust, and bringing in this sunshine and happiness in to celebrate where the Jewish Community is today and how they have progressed despite a hard history.
This day, known amongst Israelis as Yom Ha’atzmaut, is the day on the Jewish Calendar that is meant to celebrate the writing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. Although this day is not an official day off from school, members of Hillel, students who practice Judaism, Israeli students, and all others even without ties to the country, came out on the beautiful day to celebrate.
“It’s just a day of pure happiness,” said Roni Fellah, 20, who is a student and member of Hillel at CCP, the community college in Philadelphia. “You don’t see too much outdoor celebration here in America, but in Israel right now cars probably can’t even drive down the streets, the whole city is on party mode,” she said while laughing with fellow friends. Although moving here when she was just at the age of 4, Roni was born in Tel-Aviv and identifies with Israel “more than anything else. Being Israel resonates with me at my core.”
Roni drove up to Manhattan on Tuesday morning with other friends from CCP to come to the event in Washington Square Park, because there weren’t too many festivities taking place.
“There was like one march and Hillel was doing something at school, but when I saw the event page for Rave in the Park, I just wanted to go so badly, it was the first option I saw for the day that really felt like a celebration.” Roni explained that after the week before, it’s “so important to celebrate Israeli Independence Day. The Holocaust was a blatant genocide of Jews, and after World War II I can only imagine how hard it was to recover from the things that happened. But look at where we are now! The fact that we can even talk about a real State of Israel is something the Jewish people never thought would exist post Holocaust.”
Although Fellah came a pretty long way from home to celebrate the event, locals took the large percentage of guests for the event. One of the many who came to celebrate, was a student at Queens College, Shahar Cohen.
“This is the first year I’ve seen like a party kind of thing on Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Cohen said, pulling her long curls into a ponytail as she tried to cool down from the dancing. “It’s nice to see so much pride in the Israeli Community, it’s something I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Although Cohen usually spends the day at home celebrating with the family, she felt like it was important to come to the rave and show support for the youth of the Jewish Community.
“I’m still having a party at my house when I get home from this, but I don’t know, for whatever reason I just felt like it was really important to come here today. With everything going on in the Middle East, the way people look at Israel here in America is kind of a grey area,” Shahar explained sincerely. “We are the future of Israel, so we’re also the future of Israeli support in America.”