BY LEAH LEVY / AJT //

The very youngest students at GHA celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, too! Posing at the Early Childhood Department’s rendition of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, left to right: Yakir Stern, Lev Geller, Charles Tobin, and Leah Lefkove. PHOTO / GHA

The very youngest students at GHA celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, too! Posing at the Early Childhood Department’s rendition of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, left to right: Yakir Stern, Lev Geller, Charles Tobin, and Leah Lefkove. PHOTO / GHA

Students at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy acknowledged the great gift of the State of Israel and the price paid for it over the last 65 years during their observance of Yom Hazikaron on April 15.

To begin the proceedings, sixth-graders paid tribute to two young IDF soldiers – Major Uri Azulai and Sergeant Tom Koren – killed in action in 1996. Students then remembered all the soldiers and the victims of terror who died for the State of Israel with songs and poems in Hebrew and English, and in a special appearance, Sgt. Koren’s sister Bat-Chen Koren spoke movingly of missing her brother every day despite the years that have passed.

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Next, Deputy Consul General for the Israeli Consulate of the Southeast Sharon Kabalo noted that Israel has lost 23,085 soldiers since it became a nation in 1948.

“I was born in the reality of the State of Israel, and sometimes, I take it for granted,” Kabalo said. “As a people, our dream has been fulfilled. And to accomplish this, 23,085 soldiers became dreams themselves.”

The mood lifted the following with the excitement of Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut).  The festivities opened with an assembly conducted by the seventh grade and GHA’s B’not Sherut, Ateret Kfir and Linor Nahum. There were songs, a flag drill and videos, and the celebration culminated in the first grade’s rendition of “Eretz Yisrael Sheli.”

This was followed by joint morning tefillot – made special with the recitation of Hallel – for the third through seventh grades. Students then rotated through several Israel-themed activities, enjoyed a gala barbecue and watched movies about Israel.

“My favorite part was the pita bakery, where we made our own pitas,” said Noam Laufer, grade five. “It really reminded me of Israel – also, it was delicious!”

There were many types of Israeli crafts and foods for all students – including the youngest in the Infant and Toddler Village – throughout the day. Little ones made flags and left notes in their very own version of the Western Wall, while bigger ones tie-dyed blue and white t-shirts and created a bottle-cap collage of the Jerusalem skyline.

Meanwhile, Israeli flags waved triumphantly over groups of students all over the school. Principal Leah Summer explained the importance of the holiday and GHA’s revelry.

“Yom Ha’atzmaut is very special here at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy because our love for Israel is one of our defining characteristics,” she said. “Israel isn’t just a faraway country from the distant past to GHA students; it’s also part of our present and our future.”

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Leah Levy is a paraprofessional at GHA and the author of “The Waiting Wall,” a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2010.