Mother’s Day

How is Mother's Day celebrated in Israel?

The vision of Mother’s Day in the United States is often pictured as a day full of flowers, breakfast-in-bed and chocolates for mothers in America. Meant to give gratitude to hard working mothers across the country, the holiday is characterized by giving tokens of appreciation, such as homemade cards and gifts. However, in Israel, the holiday is actually celebrated quite differently. Beginning in the 1980’s, Mother’s Day was transformed into Yom Mishpacha, or Family Day, meant to honor the family as a whole, no matter who is the central caregiver.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in Israel on April 6, 1947, before the country was even founded. It was initiated by the Ezra organization, which assisted women after childbirth. The holiday was initially established for the same reasons as other countries-to recognize mothers as the primary care givers.

Four years later, in 1951, the city of Haifa instituted its own version of Mother’s Day, started by Hannah Hushi, wife of the current mayor, Abba Hushi. Hushi proposed the holiday to be one in which children and husbands would assist with household chores and make gifts for their mothers. Clearly, this version of the holiday reveals its outdated roots, implying that women were the sole caretakers of the household and those primarily responsible for chores. Additionally, the mayor proposed that a park on mount Carmel be renamed to Gan HaEm, or Mother’s Garden, and that mothers would come to the park to plant trees on the inaugural holiday. Lastly, the mayor stated that the celebration would be held during Hanukkah every year, to commemorate the mother of the Maccabees.

While the citizens of Haifa celebrated Mother’s Day during Hanukkah, for the rest of Israel, Mother’s Day was celebrated on a completely different day. On Nov. 14, 1951, eleven-year-old Nechama Frankel sent a letter to the newspaper Haaretz Shelanu which was holding a contest for young readers to suggest a date for Mother’s Day. Frankel proposed that the day be celebrated on the second day of Adar—the anniversary of the death of Henrietta Szold. Szold founded Haddasah, an organization which recruited women with the goal of improving health care in Israel. Even more impressively, Szold founded Youth Aliyah, which rescued about 30,000 children from the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. Although she had no children of her own, Szold was praised as “the mother of all children” due to her efforts to preserve children’s rights.

Eventually, by the 1970s, the date of Mother’s Day was changed to the 30th of Shevat, the date of Szold’s death, and was eventually was renamed Family Day in the 1980s. Now, the holiday seeks to appreciate all different types of families, not just nuclear families, and recognizes the variety of roles each parent may play in a family. Family day recognizes that caregivers can be of different genders and that families are not always comprised of the traditional roles of mother and father. Family day is often celebrated with family activities such as hikes, picnics and games. In contrast to the commercialized version of Mother’s Day in America, Yom Mishpacha strives to celebrate the family as a united whole, no matter what role each parent may play in the household. Perhaps the United States may follow Israel’s lead and take on this modern version of celebrating caregivers.

Talia Katzke is a sophomore at Riverdale Country School.

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