July 19, 2024
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Yom Hazikaron Delivers Powerful Messages of Service at Ma’ayanot

On Monday, May 1, Yom Hazikaron was commemorated at Ma’ayanot with a candle-lighting ceremony, poetry reading and tefillah to memorialize soldiers who lost their lives in Israel’s wars or in terror attacks. Students read stories and shared a slideshow of individuals, including Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, the former head of the Yeshiva in Otniel, who was killed in a terrorist attack in 2016, as well as Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, who was killed in a truck-ramming attack. Students also watched a film about a chayal named Yosef Goodman, the son of American olim from Efrat, who died in a parachute accident.

At the sound of a siren, a moment of silence was observed throughout the school. Students watched a clip from “Beneath the Helmet,” a video that portrays the meaningful service of IDF soldiers, not only in protecting Israel but also in fulfilling the dreams of those who sacrificed their lives for Medinat Yisrael.

Yehuda Brick and Adi Ciner, two former soldiers who attended Yeshivat HaKotel and are now students at Yeshiva University, spoke to students about their service in the IDF and what it meant to them. Brick, who served in tanks in 2015-2016, spoke about his experiences protecting cars on a road in Yehudah and Shomron from rock throwers. “It was the first time I felt the importance of what I was doing and the safety I was giving people.”

One Shabbat, when he was stationed on the border with Lebanon, his unit discovered that their tank was targeted by a Hezbollah missile. “I felt what it meant to be a chayal and to sacrifice to protect the country,” Brick said. “I experienced a connectivity to be part of a greater Am Yisrael.”

Ciner explained to students how his asthma gave him a low ranking and made him ineligible to serve in combat. Yet he was determined to serve in the IDF, he said, even if it meant being a “jobnick,” a derogatory term for Israeli soldiers who do everyday jobs like cutting vegetables or driving a truck. He ended up serving as a chaplain in the elite canine unit from 2014 to 2015, which he found very rewarding. He overcame challenges, such as difficulty with Hebrew language, and discovered that his own vulnerabilities ended up being strengths. “Everybody needs somebody to help them sometimes,” Ciner said. He recalled that a chayal who was not religious and was wounded in the Gaza war, asked him for help in putting on tefillin for the first time. Ciner also spoke about building bridges between secular and religious soldiers and his hope to turn Yom Hazikaron from a day that is “not just sad, but also guided and impactful.”

As a follow up, students watched the movie “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story,” and wrote letters to chayalim to show support.

“At Ma’ayanot, the programming is student envisioned and student run,” said Sarah Gordon, director of student activities. “Students on the Yamim Committee, which plans Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, meet to plan out a vision of the day and then we work with them to bring this vision to reality. Our goal on Yom Hazikaron is for the atmosphere at Ma’ayanot to feel as close as possible to what Yom Hazikaron is like in Israel. We have a siren where everyone stands in silence. We have the flat screen TVs playing stories of fallen chayalim, just as you will find on TV in Israel. We put bios of fallen soldiers on all the classroom doors so students in class can think about those who sacrificed their lives.”

“The day was very meaningful,” said Ravi Schwartz, a junior. “It was interesting to see how emotional the experiences were for the chayalim who visited, even years later.”

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