Yom Haatzmaut: On a different continent, in our ancestors’ footsteps

Emilie Benyowitz

Sarah Soroudi, Staff Writer

For a first-hand experience of Israeli history, this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration began with a steep and difficult hike at Kenneth Hahn Park in Baldwin Hills and ended with a farewell to two teachers who will be returning to the land after three years at Shalhevet.

For Israel’s 63rd anniversary, the entire school was taken off campus. Only Periods 8 and 9 were held that day.

Inclusion teacher Josh Horwatt, who led the hike, chose this specific park because he thought it was a beautiful place with a great view, and a source of inspiration that fit with Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“So much of the creation of the state of Israel has to do with people getting up and making their dreams come true, “ said Mr. Horwatt. “Our ancestors had to take the initiative to make something happen, that nobody else in the world would do for them.

“The best way to translate that experience was to do something that would involve moving, working, exercising,” he said.

The hike followed a narrow trail, thick with brush from the recent rains, up to the summit of a mountain at the top of the huge park.  Although many students were complaining about the heat, it gave a taste of what the Jews went though traveling to Israel, both in ancient times and in more recent years.

At times climbing hand over hand, everyone made it to the top from which they looked out over all of West Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean.

“I realized that we can act together as Am Yisroel, and we can fulfill the Jewish dream,” commented junior Josh Meisel. “The unity that we shared was amazing, and the beautiful view gave me the feeling that G-d was there, and he will be with us every step of the way.”

It was a far cry from previous years’ celebrations, which were organized by the Bat Ami with favorite Israeli activities such as flag dance, and a soldier speaking about his experience in the IDF.

“It was definitely tiring, but I actually got a sense of what my family had to do many years ago to finally make their dreams come true,” said freshman Maya Ben-Shushan, whose family is Israeli. “I got something different out of it…a new appreciation.”

After the 30-minute hike to start off the day, students were divided into four groups, each of which rotated among activities organized by the staff.

With almost everyone clad in blue and white, the students participated in activities such as creating a map of Israel with common objects found in Kenneth Hahn Park, and solving moral dilemmas faced by Israeli soldiers in the IDF in no more than one minute.

They were also quizzed on their general knowledge of the country while racing, giving it a competitive spin.

“My favorite part of the day was when we were on the hill together,” said Josh Meisel.

The Sabos, on the other hand, may best remember when the everyone came back to school and they were surprised with a good-bye assembly.

After recovering from the shock of the surprise, Rabbi and Mrs. Sabo and their daughter, freshman Avital Sabo, watched a video of students explaining their favorite memories with either of the teachers, along with their good-byes.The video was made by Student Activities teacher Raizie Weissman and junior Yonah Nimmer.

Following the video, the choir performed Hiney Ba Hashalom (Here Comes the Peace), after which the floor was open to both students and faculty to say a few words about the departing family.

Stories ran from Rabbi Sabo’s love of meat, to how caring and motherly Mrs. Sabo is toward students in her class. Dean of Students Mr. Roy Danovitch explained their always caring and humble demeanor.

Juniors Karen Tal and Leeor Zahavi spoke about their teacher, Mrs. Sabo, together.

“She is a huge part of the Shalhevet bubble that we will miss,” the pair said, taking turns reading from a script they’d written in advance. “She is an amazing woman and teacher, and we love her very much.”

In honor of Rabbi Sabo’s favorite food, everyone gathered in the parking lot, where hot-dogs, hamburgers, falafel, and a variety of salads were waiting for them, prepared by Dudu. To end off the celebration, a cake was served decorated with the flag of the state of Israel.