Family legend has it that my husband was the first Jewish baby to be born in the newly rededicated Jewish hospital in Berlin, on May 8, 1948. His father was extremely relieved that he was born on Shabbos, because it meant that he would not need to provide the customary cigarettes for attendees at the bris, which in post-war Germany could be obtained only at a very high price on the black market. Because of the extreme food shortages, the usual fare consisted of a little kichel (cake or cookies) with black market cigarettes and shnapps. Now he only had to worry about the kichel and the shnapps.
But besides the incredible awe and miracle of celebrating the birth of a Jewish child amidst the ashes of the Holocaust, it was especially meaningful that my husband’s bris was celebrated on the day announcing the creation of the State of Israel, Israel’s very first Independence Day.
So when my daughter pulled out a surprise birthday cake decorated with 64 tiny Israeli flags (instead of candles) at our Yom HaAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day) picnic at the beautiful park in the town of Modi’in, my husband was quite touched. As we started to sing “Happy Birthday,” suddenly all the nearby Israeli picnickers – – Sephardi, Ashkenazi, religious and secular – – joined in the singing, and then repeated the Hebrew version of the song. Everyone shouted “Mazal tov!” and came over to my husband to shake his hand or caress his shoulder. Someone handed him a giant Israeli flag and insisted we take a family picture.
After my husband stopped blushing from all the unexpected attention, there was only this thought: how special it was to be surrounded by family – – not only our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, but the family of klal Yisrael.
Hinei mah tov umah na’im, shevet achim gam yachad. How wonderful it is to sit together with our brethren!
And now for some photos of the huge, gorgeous new planned city of Modi’in, with its man-made lake, one of it many playgrounds, and a small portion of the impressive housing. Construction began in what was a desolate area in 1994. In 2009 there were 46,000 residents; in 2010 there were 74,000 residents, and there are plans for a total of 240,000 residents, which is not at all unrealistic based on the town’s popularity. Conveniently located approximately halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with many new shortcut bypass roads that dramatically cut commute times, plus a new train line under construction, it is one of Israel’s cleanest cities, too. There are free wi-fi connections throughout the city. Real estate prices have increased dramatically in the past few years.