I really like this video from the Israel Project, as it shows a variety of locations and you can hear the siren. Normally, the siren goes off when it is time to light Shabbos candles. I love the siren then. Hearing it in this context was so different and eerie and made me fervently hope that I would never hear the siren "for real".
We were at different locations each time the siren went off: once I was driving on a small road to Jerusalem. I very much wanted to be on the big highway ("The 1". We joke that we may sometime slip into an alternate universe while driving on it and end up at the Square One Mall in Saugus), but Waze kept giving me route options that did not include the 1. Oh well. I pulled over on the side of the road as did the one car in back of me and that was it. I was glad that I happened to be driving near a moshav at the time, as I heard the moshav's siren. I had the radio on, tuned to a religious radio station (not particularly by choice. I generally just put the radio on and leave it on whatever station the last person who rented the car had it on. Since I only want to hear the Hebrew and don't understand much of what I'm listening to, it doesn't particularly matter to me what they're saying). The radio station, rather than having the siren, had an announcer saying tehillim perfectly timed to the siren. I liked the juxtaposition.
For the second siren, I was in the mercaz and it was very nice to see the wide variety of people standing at attention. Among the religious, there is great disparity about how people note these memorial moments, including a large number of people who don't follow them at all, so I was pleased that almost all people I saw were standing.
For the last siren, I was at ulpan and they had us join in the local elementary school's Yom HaZikaron program that was being held in the community center's common room. It was quite impressive to have a room of about 150 people snap to attention when the siren started, especially since about half of those people were children (there was scattered giggling about halfway through, but, overall, I was pretty impressed). The children put on a beautiful program, which is really saying something since I understood only about 25% of what was said (Hebrew for Hebrew-speakers AND that it was said by children just overwhelmed my small skills).
There was a beautiful profile of Miriam Peretz and two of her sons who died while serving in the Israeli army, some nice songs, and a color guard performance with Israeli flags, in the middle of which I had an almost-overwhelming feeling of "Oh my goodness! I live in Israel now". You'd think that would have occurred to me before now, but I guess some of us are slow on the uptake....
It really was intense to see this room full of kids and hear their performances, which seemed quite heartfelt. Probably every one of those children will do either army service or sherut leumi (the alternative service program offered to religious young women) and I assume that gives the show added poignancy to them (it did to me!). I also assume that the day has more immediacy to the kids here than in, say, Boston, since a much larger number of people here know someone who died defending their country.
Finally, we ended with Yom HaAtzmaut yesterday. It's quite a segue to go from Memorial Day immediately into Independence Day, but that transition also seems quite Israeli ("We Mourn. We Go On").
We made several trays of pasta salad to contribute to the Lone Soldiers' BBQ. Somehow, working together, families in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh made enough food to feed 850 Lone Soldiers!
Yom HaAtzmaut is a major time to BBQ here and the park--which is ENORMOUS--was mobbed with extended families gathered together and grilling hot dogs. We actually sat in traffic for about 15 minutes try to exit the park! We had specifically *not* gone to Jerusalem because of how bad we heard the traffic is (thanks for the invitation, though, Fern).
Yom HaAtzmaut is, unfortunately, also a holiday that is not a "universal" here. It's beyond my new immigrant skills to parse it all ("seriously--you can't eat a hamburger today because it might give the impression that you're too modern/supportive of the secular government?!"), but, if you want to delve into it more deeply, this woman gave it a whirl
And, lastly, Shalom Shachne's ulpan class watched this cartoon of two old Army buddies meeting again on Yom HaAtzmaut at a BBQ. If you want to give your Hebrew a try, it's pretty funny (and, no, my Hebrew is not on this level. I needed a huge amount of help to understand it)
Shabbat Shalom and, yeah, Yom HaAtzmaut Sameach.