Yom Haatzmaut: Israel arrives on the parking lot — on camels

GIDDY-UP: Sophomore Daniel Shoham and junior Shlomo Bijou rode camels on Yom Haatzmaut.

BP Photo by Sarah Elspas

GIDDY-UP: Sophomore Daniel Shoham and junior Shlomo Bijou rode camels on Yom Haatzmaut.

By Rose Lipner, Arts & Culture Editor

What do you get when you cross two camels with 162 enthusiastic students? The answer is Shalhevet’s Yom Haatzmaut celebration May 6 – an event complete with animal rides and an Israeli film festival.

For the first half of the school day, students, faculty and administration celebrated the 66th anniversary of Israel’s independence with spirited davening, camel rides and falafel, along with a speaker from the IDF. It was a dramatic shift from the previous day’s commemoration of Yom Hazikaron, when students remembered those who died fighting in the Israeli army in a somber program of videos and memorial candles in the Beit Midrash.

The next day, students were welcomed to school by teachers waving Israeli flags and the PA system blaring Israeli music. Blue and white balloons, sparkling ornaments and streamers decorated the hallways as people headed to the Beit Midrash for Shacharit.

“I can proudly say that Israel is my home,” said junior Sigal Spitzer, looking around at the waving cacophony of blue and white.  “It’s a place that breathes and breeds Jewish values, culture, tradition, religion and philosophy. Our lives here would not be half as prosperous and successful without Israel.”

At a special assembly after breakfast, students heard from Sgt. Benjamin Anthony of the Israeli Defense Force. Sgt. Anthony was born in the United Kingdom to a Jewish family and started a non-profit organization called Our Soldiers Speak, which educates Americans about the realities of war.

“I’m here to educate you about what transpires on the front lines of battle,” said Sgt. Anthony. “It is certainly not easy and there are major moral dilemmas that come up.”

He said IDF dilemmas were carefully considered and set an example for the world in the way in which they were resolved.

After the assembly, students headed out to the parking lot, where a sea of blue-and-white clad students gathered inside square boundaries that had been created with large bales of hay. Israeli dancing, Bulgarit cheese and watermelon were placed on tables as Israeli folk music blasted across the lot.

All of a sudden, two large brown camels came parading toward the students from the Sport Court, carrying Principal Reb Noam Weissman and his wife, Student Activities director Raizie Weissman. After they climbed down, students formed a line, laughing and smiling.

Most students were willing to wait in the 30-minute long line to ride the trainer-led camels for three minutes. Giddy-Up Ranch—which provided the trainers and camels—offers petting farms and pony rides with a number of different animals, from rabbits to llamas.

The festivities concluded with a classic Israeli meal: deep-fried falafel, hummus and warm pita.

With the commotion of celebration, students barely remembered when their classes would begin and struggled to get into the gist of the school day without mouthing Israeli songs or craving more falafel.