Most of Israel’s holidays are religious holidays, with the exception of three incredibly important days; Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. These three holidays, happy and sad, were established after 1948 and are a time where the country as a whole celebrates together and mourns together. Last week was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this week we have Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, and Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day. One day after another. However, these two days are much different from what one might experience in their home country.
Yom HaZikaron is a somber day, where everyone mourns together, cries together, and embraces one another. It is a day to remember the fallen soldiers of war and the victims of terror throughout Israel’s modern history. This memorial day will begin on Tuesday night with a memorial siren going off across the country at 8PM and again the next morning at 11AM. During this time, the country comes to a standstill- not a word is spoken, cars and buses pull over to the side of the streets and highways, and everyone rises to remember those who sacrificed so much so that we could have a Jewish State. Stores are closed, television and radio play sad movies and songs, and during the day, families and friends go visit the graves of the fallen. Even if someone does not have a relative that has passed, many go to the cemeteries to simply hear the stories of these brave soldiers and victims from the families. Many think it is strange that Yom HaZikaron, such a serious day, happens the day before Yom HaAtzmaut, but the reason behind this is because without these soldiers, Israel would not be the place that it is today.
Once the sun sets on Wednesday, the Independence Day celebrations begin! Communities gather together to watch children preform Daglanut, traditional flag dancing, and parties take place on every street corner in nearly every city. Blue and white decorate each and every building, and each and every person, as everyone dresses like the Israeli flag. The next morning, families and groups of friends take to every beach and every park so they can appreciate all aspects of Israel, including its beautiful nature. Plus, the Israeli Air Force puts on a show in the morning so being outdoors gives you the perfect space to watch Israeli fighter jets zoom across the sky. Just like other countries, what would Independence Day be without a barbecue! Everyone is on vacation on Yom HaAtzmaut and the weather is beautiful, so really there is no reason not to take advantage of this beautiful and meaningful day.
Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated year after year with just as much excitement as the year when Israel’s Independence was first announced. Though Yom HaAtzmaut isn’t just about celebrating our nationality. It is about celebrating the Jewish people, our loved ones, those who fought for us in the past, and those who will make Israel’s future possible. It is about appreciating what we have, from Tel Aviv’s start-up energy, Jerusalem’s ancient history, the rolling hills of the Golan, and the blossoming Negev Desert. It is about celebrating innovation, history, religion, and culture. It is about celebrating a homeland for the Jewish people, no matter who they are, where they come from, and where they are going, as long as they have a love for Israel. Yom HaAtzmaut Sameach (happy Independence day) and happy 71st birthday, Israel!