Israel is celebrating its 70th birthday. Festivities begin in the evening and continue throughout the day. Happy Birthday Israel!
Israel made the complex transition from Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) to Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) on Wednesday night, as the official ceremony kicked off the celebration that took place on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem.
Each year, Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day – begins immediately following Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, in memory of fallen soldiers and victims of terror. This transition from somber remembrance to joyous celebration helps serve as a reminder that the State of Israel owes its existence to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This remarkable ability to grieve for the fallen and then rejoice in the miracle of the Jewish State is manifest in the State of Israel, where the people continue to look to the future with hope and optimism.
The state ceremony that ushers in Yom Ha’atzmaut takes place at Mount Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery, by the grave of Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of Modern Zionism. The flag, which was at half mast for Yom HaZikaron, was raised to the top of the pole. The celebration includes soldiers marching with flags creating various formations, hundreds of dancers, and of course, fireworks. The program is televised on Israeli TV channels.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lit a torch during the state ceremony marking the commencement of Israel’s 70th Yom Ha’atzmaut on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the establishment of the state.
Another 12 dignitaries, equaling the number of Israel’s tribes in the bible, were honored with lighting a torch during the ceremony on Mount Herzl. They were selected for their outstanding contributions to the country and Israeli society. It is considered one of Israel’s highest honors.
History, Nature and Celebratory Cuisine
Many museums and cultural institutions across the country open their doors to the public during the holiday, and there is a wide variety of events and activities for families.
One of the most popular traditions for Israelis is to barbecue, called the “mangal,” and to go hiking in nature reserves. Parks are packed with people grilling their meat as they give thanks for the State of Israel.
Another popular event on Yom Ha’atzmaut is the annual International Bible Contest, a worldwide competition on the Tanach (Jewish Bible) for high-school students held at the Jerusalem Theater. The competition, broadcast live on Israeli TV and radio, is sponsored by the Israeli government and is attended by the prime minister.
Each year, the Israel Air Force (IAF) also displays its military strength with a flyover across the country. Residents from north to south check the schedule ahead of time to know when the planes will pass over their neighborhoods.