Spray paint, dancing and kavanah to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut

CANVAS: Outside in the parking lot, students spray-painted and decorated a large white wall in honor of Israel’s 68th year of independence.

By Benjamin Zaghi, Staff Writer

When you see Israeli flags waved in the air, kids jumping up down and listening to Israeli music being blasted in the gym, you know its Yom Ha’atzmaut at Shalhevet. March 12, students wore blue and white, matching the blue and white balloons and paper streamers that covered the decorated gym, and forgetting the competitive Just Community elections that had been consuming the student body that week.

From an hour-long davening to start the day through breakfast, an art slam and impromptu dancing and rapping, students’ energy never waned.

“Waking up that morning I didn’t expect to be rapping in front of a crowd with my principal or painting a mural that expressed my personal ideas about Israel,” said sophomore Mendy Mentz later. “Going home from school that day I knew it would be a memorable part of my Shalhevet experience.”

Yom Ha’atzmaut’s davening began with a bang; students waving Israeli flags and praying with eyes closed, seeming to concentrate greatly. Parents had been invited too, and joined for davening and Hallel, sharing in the spirit with their kids.

“I feel blessed that our kids are a part of a school which teaches so much ahavat Israel,” or love of Israel, said Michal Lasry, mother of sophomore Eliezer Lasry. “It was moving to see the kavannah and ruach” – intention and spirit — “the students and rabbis had.”

After the ecstatic davening session in the gym, students dispersed to the cafeteria and a breakfast of bagels and eggs to energize them for what was to come.  Students were then brought back to the gym and heard the Choirhawks sing “I Hope You Dance,” which senior Asher Sebban said reflected Israel’s attitude toward living to the fullest in spite of tragedy.

Next, the students were divided by grades for an activity led by Artists for Israel, a group that spreads Israeli culture and tries to beautify Israel through art.  Outside in the parking lot, students tried to express their feelings about Israel by painting graffiti on the blacktop on a large white wooden board.

When the students were finished, the professionals painted on top of it, creating a colorful artwork in memory of Israel’s 68th birthday.  They also painted the school’s usually-closed back drive way gate, which will be there permanently according to Raizie Weissman, Students Activities Director.

Later on, students took microphones in the gym and began to rap alongside their peers and teachers. Dancing and yelling continued in the gym as a dance battle broke out between the boys and girls.

“I was amazed by Shalhevet’s unity during Hallel, dancing, and the Graffiti activity,” said sophomore Ariel Cohen. “On Yom Ha’atzmaut, we maturely avoided the divide and distraction the Just Community elections had the potential to create.”

The day before, Shalhevet had honored all the Israeli soldiers who fell during their time serving the army, on Yom Hazikaron. An all-school ceremony was held in the gym in the morning, with candle-lighting for specific fallen soldiers, or Israelis who had died fighting in the army. With the help of Students Activities Director, Raizie Weissman, Judaic Studies Teacher, Ilana Wilner, and Hebrew Department Coordinator, Mickey Rabinov, the assembly was very captivating, having many kids become emotional.