Israel is celebrating its 69th birthday. Festivities, beginning in the evening, continue throughout the day. Happy Birthday Israel!
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 paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This remarkable ability to grieve for the fallen and then rejoice in the miracle of the Jewish State is manifest in 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, a founder of Modern Zionism. The flag, which was at half mast for Yom HaZikaron, is 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 channels.
Many museums and cultural institutions across the country open their doors to the public during, and there is a wide variety of events and activities for families. A most popular tradition for Israelis is to barbecue, the Mangal, and go hiking in nature reserves. Parks are packed with people grilling their meat as a thanksgiving 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.
As well, each year, the Israel Air Force 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.
‘Our Story is a Story of Hope’
In his special message for Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the “moment of triumph for our people,” the day the state was founded.
“We had been scattered around the world for millennia. And then we returned to our ancient homeland, to build a safe haven, where we could live, and thrive,” he said.
While “many doubted that this tiny State of Israel would survive,” as the nascent state was “surrounded by hostile enemies, who attacked us again and again. So perhaps, for some, this skepticism was warranted. But survive we did.”
Not only did the new state survive. “Much more than that. We thrived,” he declared jubilantly.
“Today Israel is strong, democratic, prosperous. And I have no doubt that in the coming 69 years, Israel will continue to thrive, be strong and prosperous,” Netanyahu said.
“Our story is a story of hope, not just for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity. We persevered through adversity against all odds. Anyone fighting for a just cause, fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds, could draw inspiration from our story,” he stressed.
“Happy Independence Day to all of our friends around the world,” he concluded.