Cantor’s Column – April 2021

Yom Ha’Atzmaut – A Personal Holiday

Cantor Ilan Davidson

In 1906, my grandfather, Avishai Davidson, was born in Rishon LeZion, Israel, a virtual wasteland, being built up by those who believed in a Zionist dream, as the city’s name implies. 25 years later, he started his own family, with the birth of my father, Menachem Mendel Davidson, in the very city of his birth. He and my grandmother, Rivka, a 3rd generation Sabra (Israeli born), would raise their family of 4 children with a dream of building a country, my grandfather always embracing his entrepreneurial side, as he started the Carmel Winery, with Baron Rothschild, the Goldstar Brewery, a cooperative of citrus farmers, and his greatest accomplishment, Egged, the rapid transit system of the State of Israel.

My father grew up learning to plant and develop the soil, growing not only our citrus crops, but the desire of a nation. In high school, he attended the prestigious Pardes Chana, and agricultural boarding school, where he honed not only his agricultural skills, but his knowledge and study of Tanach (Bible). This industrious and passionate 16-year-old ultimately ran away from school to join the Hagganah and fight for independence, in 1948. After being slightly wounded, and his mother reaching out to David Ben-Gurion, himself, to find her son, he was discovered and sent home, but spent his life very proud of his contribution to the founding of OUR nation.

Each year on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, I find myself not only celebrating the birth of the State of Israel, but the personal, familial legacy of which I am the inheritor. The names of many members of my family are national treasures, including my great Aunt, who ran the Rishon LeZion museum, throughout her lifetime, filled with family artifacts, including my family member’s Talit with a Star of David sewn onto it, which is touted as the first flag of Israel. When I lead a trip to Israel, it is always a trip home, filled with familial and personal stories which demonstrate the nature of all of our relationships with this beautiful nation, and when I sing the music of Israel, it is often imbued with the kavanah of personal experience.

As we prepare to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut this year, may we all strive to find our own personal connection to Israel, and as restrictions allow, may we all find the time to travel to and experience this beautiful country. I know that I can’t wait to take many of you back to Israel, soon!