Independence Day is the highlight of Israel’s calendar. It is solemnly ushered in on Mount Herzl by raising the flags lowered for Memorial Day and lighting ceremonial torches – and then becomes a day like no other.
Huge street parties and concerts are set up in cities and paid for by the local municipalities, and feature live bands, dazzling firework displays, and delicious Israeli street food! The next day, sizzling barbeques occupy every available patch of land, and entire families boot (sandal?) up to hike the length and breadth of the country together.
If you don’t live in Israel, it can be hard to really feel the exuberant joy and happiness experienced in Israel on this special day. That’s why we’ve come up with the best ways to celebrate Israeli Independence Day in style!
- • Community Parties. Many synagogues hold a combined Memorial/Independence Day ceremony on the night of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. It begins with a somber service dedicated to remembering those who fell in battle and in terror attacks while fighting for Israeli sovereignty, and usually includes a candle lighting ceremony, real-life testimonies, and the recital of the Kaddish prayer. This is followed by a carnival-style Independence Day party, featuring live music, Israeli dancing, children’s entertainment and Israel-themed games and events. It’s also the one time of year when synagogues of different denominations will join together for a united celebration.
- • Israeli Food. If you’re stuck at work, consider packing an Israeli lunch to take with you! Some classic Israeli favorites include hummus, falafel, fresh vegetable salads, schnitzel and sabich (slices of hard-boiled egg and roasted eggplant stuffed into bread with hummus, pickles and salad).
- • Barbeque! Barbequing – called al ha’esh or mangal in Hebrew – is a national pastime: throughout the long summer months, mouthwatering smoky smells fill every street. Invite your friends, family and neighbors over for a potluck, Israeli-style barbeque, complete with pitta breads, serving dishes filled with crunchy salads and icy-cold Israeli wine and beer!
- • Go blue and white. In Israel, the streets are filled with blue-and-white clad kids and adults, and many people even find a way to wear the Israeli flag! Dress down for the occasion with jeans and your favorite white shirt – and feel free to add face paint or an original Israeli t-shirt.
- • Religious celebrations. The Israeli Rabbinate instigated the addition of Hallel to Independence Day celebrations: this is a collection of psalms and prayers recited on joyous festivals. Religious Zionist, Modern and Open Orthodox, Conservative and Masorti communities hold special services both at night and in the morning to mark this special day.
- • And if you’re here… if you’re lucky enough to be in Israel this Independence Day, check your neighborhood for communal street parties, concerts and firework displays, and find out which museums and other cultural centers are open to the public for free. Alternatively, stock up on water bottles and baseball caps and head off hiking for an all-Israeli experience!
Judaica WebStore wishes you a meaningful Memorial Day and a happy Independence Day!