SUNSET MONDAY, MAY 9: Israel is alive with excitement tonight! Men, women and children dance in the streets, hoist high the flag of Israel, watch dramatic military displays and light 12 torches, representing the Tribes of Israel: It’s the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.
Yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron was a somber memorial, but today is full of joy as citizens celebrate their freedom and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. (Read one man’s account of dancing in Rabin Square on the night of Yom Ha’atzmaut—and how deeply he is impacted by his son’s first true appreciation of this holiday this year.) The thousands of young people on the annual March of the Living will also join in the celebrations tonight, after trekking through Holocaust death camps on Yom HaShoah last week.
Tomorrow, a national holiday will bring thousands of citizens to parks and cities for family picnics and barbecues, a variety of religious commemorations and lots of playful fun as well. Army camps around the nation are open to the public today, as a means of allowing citizens to view the recent technological advances of the Israeli Defense Forces. (The Jewish Virtual Library has more.) Many Israelis decorate their homes and cars with Israelis flags tonight, and just before sunset, the “Israel Prize” ceremony recognizes those who have made important contributions to the culture of Israel. (Wikipedia has details.)
Jews in the Diaspora may not get the day off for Yom Ha’atzmaut, but many devote time to strengthening ties with the State of Israel. Most North American congregations officially celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut on the Shabbat closest to Yom Ha’atzmaut.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.