Yesterday, we reported on the two days earlier this week, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut. While the days will definitely stick in everyones’ collective memories for a long, long time, for one particular chanicha, it will stay in her memory for even longer.
When Masa Israel Journey approached us and asked for a lucky participant to play a special role during the official tekes on Har Herzl, Helene Zinckgraf of New Jersey was the big winner, chosen to represent Year Course (as the largest Israel program) and therefore all of Masa.
At 8:30 in the morning, Helene arrived to Har Herzl accompanied by a Masa employee, in time to go through all the security checks (a lot but not unexpected). Helene’s job? To escort Jewish Agency chairman and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky as he laid a wreath on the resting place of fallen soldiers.
Natan Sharansky is a Jewish hero, an activist who spent years imprisoned in the Gulag, a Soviet labor camp, before being freed to make aliyah to Israel. Imagine Helene’s surprise when he walked right up to her, introducing himself and engaging her in conversation. He asked about her year in Israel and her experience on Year Course and was reportedly very friendly!
The ceremony was incredibly exclusive with honored guests and only about one hundred VIPs in attendance. Helene sat just a couple of feet away from Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres which made the meaningful morning even more surreal and special. Surrounding her were former soldiers injured in war, including one who served in the Palmach (a pre-1948 fighting unit which eventually became the foundation for the IDF.)
In Helene’s words: ”I just felt so united with everyone. Nobody died in vain; each person’s legacy continues. Even if a grave didn’t have a family member there to mourn, a soldier was assigned to each to tell the person’s story. People really stick together here.”
That is Israel. A tiny country who has dealt with adversity but sticks together when times are tough. Something that our chanichim will remember for a very long time.
- Inside Israel