Jewish: Israel’s Independence Day is Yom Ha’atzmaut

IN 2010, SUNDOWN MONDAY, APRIL 19: In the Israeli calendar, Memorial Day (or Yom HaZikaron) is followed by the celebration of Independence Day (or Yom Ha’atzmaut)—as a way to begin the celebration of freedom with a day-long solemn remembrance of the cost of that freedom. In the Jewish calendar, these days traditionally fall on the 4th and 5th days of lyar, the eighth month of the year.

Much like the U.S. moved around holidays to better accomodate celebrations for Americans, the Israelis also revised their holiday schedule. So, Yom Ha’atzmaut must appear mid-week close to the 5th of lyar. This year, the kickoff for Yom Ha’atzmaut is postponed until sundown Monday, April 19.

Israel gained its independence in 1948, and an elaborate ceremony occurs each year on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. (The Jewish Virtual Library explains the link between Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron.) During this ceremony, members of the Israeli Parliament speak, dramatic presentations celebrate the nation’s history and soldiers march with the flag of Israel while creating formations like a Menorah. Traditionally, 12 torches are lit to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. (Wikipedia has more on the day’s specific observances.)

During the day, many Jewish families celebrate similarly to the American Independence Day with picnics, family gatherings and a generally festive air. (My Jewish Learning details some of the customs associated with Yom Ha’atzmaut.) In many areas, Israeli folk dances are organized in the streets at night.

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)

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