PEABODY – In honor of Israel’s 73rd Day of Independence, city officials, members of the local Jewish community, and some state lawmakers gathered to watch the Israeli flag being raised up the flagpole on the lawn in front of City Hall in a socially distanced ceremony held April 15.
Yom Ha’atzmaut corresponds with the fifth day of the month of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. This is the day when Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948. The holiday took place on Wednesday evening and Thursday this year because 4-5 Iyar fell on Shabbat.
“Folks, on this national day of Israel we commemorate the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948,” said Christopher Ryder, the mayor’s chief of staff, before the flag was raised. “This is in celebration of the establishment of the state of Israel and in honor of all those throughout our community who celebrate along with us.”
About 20 people gathered in front of City Hall, but Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt could not attend because of the need to quarantine after a member of his family tested positive for COVID-19, Ryder said.
“He is very disappointed that he can’t be here,” Ryder said, “A member of his family tested positive for the virus, so the whole family has to quarantine for one week, so he sends his love, and his happy thoughts to all of us who are here today, but he can’t join us.”
On hand were state Representatives Tom Walsh of Peabody and Sally Kerans of Danvers; School Committee members Jarrod Hochman and Andrew Arnotis, who is also an aide to Walsh; Ward 2 City Councilor Peter McGinn; and a representative from the office of state Senator Joan Lovely, who represents Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem, and Topsfield.
Also gathered were members of Temple Tiferet Shalom, Temple Ner Tamid, and Congregation Sons of Israel, which all are located in Peabody.
Hochman recalled growing up in Brooklyn, and described his first memory of Israel Independence Day. He also noted his maternal grandmother was a huge Zionist.
“In Manhattan in 1978 there was a parade, it went down Broadway commemorating the 30th anniversary of Israeli statehood,” Hochman recalled.
Hochman noted that the 5th of Iyar was not the first date when Israeli independence was celebrated.
It was preceded by what Hochman said was called State Day held on July 27, 1948, not long after Israel declared its sovereignty.
That date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism who died in 1904, long before the state of Israel was established, Hochman said.
“I’m happy to live in a city, the city of Peabody, where we celebrate differences among our peoples,” said Hochman. “I’ve been to many celebrations at this City Hall where flags have been raised for many, many nations and many, many causes.”
Hochman said he was grateful to the city for hosting the celebration. He extended well wishes from Rabbi David Kudan of Temple Tiferet Shalom and Rabbi Richard Perlman of Temple Ner Tamid, who were not able to attend.
“As Jarrod said, it’s so important to celebrate our differences and to see that we are able to raise the Israeli flag in the city of Peabody and to celebrate differences. We are all one people and we are all together and I think it’s so wonderful that we are able to do this,” said Temple Ner Tamid president Adele Lubarsky, who along with Hochman, raised the Israeli flag over Peabody Square.