Today is Israeli Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, is celebrated. It is a day full of celebrations, joy, and remembering the importance of declaring independence.
Israeli Independence Day lands on May 14, or the Hebrew date of the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. A national ceremony is held at the Mount Herzl National Cemetery.
How was Israel declared independent?
In order to understand how Israel declared independence, we have to go back to October 1947. The British were in control of the land with a mandate. The goal of a mandate is not to indefinitely control the land, but rather help the people living there do some statebuilding and prepare for independence.
By 1947, the British had controlled Palestine for thirty years. Statebuilding is not going so well. There are two people living here: the Jews and the Arabs. They aren’t getting along so well, and the British can’t keep the peace.
So they hand over the problem to the UN to solve. The UN proposed the Partition Plan that would created an Arab and Jewish State. Jerusalem and the surrounding area would be under international control. On November 30, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed this plan.
The War of Independence began the very next day, November 30, 1947. As a result, it was a difficult war: the average age of a soldier is fifteen- sixteen years old, the average age of a commander is twenty years old, and there is one gun for every four people.
With six months before the Jewish leadership needs to make a decision: when do we declare independence? After much debate, they decide to declare on their own terms. As David Ben Gurion said:
“It is now or never. We don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the war. We must declare independence now.”
With three days before the British leave, preparations are made for declaring independence. The leadership goes to a local catering company and borrows 250 chairs. And they take the chairs to the Tel Aviv Art Museum.
So why the Tel Aviv Art Museum?
The main hall also serves as a basement or bomb shelter. The Jewish leadership quickly borrows a stage, flags, a picture of Theodor Herzl, and some microphones as well.
Fourteen hours before the event, the invitation is sent out. It asked everyone to arrive at 3:30 PM. At 3:00 PM, the Jewish leadership finished typing up the Declaration of Independence. There was no time to write the Declaration on the scroll we know today.
The Ceremony starts….
On May 14, 1948 at 16:00, David Ben Gurion begins the Declaration of Independence ceremony. For seventeen minutes, he reads the Declaration of Independence. The political leaders will then sign what will be the scroll of the Declaration of Independence.
Rabbi Fishman then recites the Shechecheynu prayer, thanking G-d for reaching this moment. After the prayer, the Hatikva is played by the philharmonic for the first time as the national anthem.
Finally, David Ben Gurion finished the ceremony:
“The State of Israel is now born. This meeting is adjourned.”
What happens on Israeli Independence Day?
Every year, a national ceremony is held in the evening at the Mount Herzl military cemetery. Different lights are lit by citizens honored for their service to the country. Many people wear white t-shirts on Israeli Independence Day.
In the evening after the National Ceremony, concerts and festivals are held throughout the country. The next day Israelis have barbeques on the beaches and parks.
Schools are closed, and many don’t have to work. As a result, people enjoy celebrating Israel’s statehood and existence.
How does Israeli Independence Day fit in with the national understanding?
There are relations between these three days and how Israel celebrates them. Yet, in order to understand this, think about how Jews mourn the death of loved one.
It begins with one day, the day of the funeral when we bury the loved one. Then we mourn for a week, called sheva. The family will sit on low chairs, men won’t shave. After is the mourning period that lasts a month, which continues to the final stage of mourning of the first year following the loved one’s death.
When we remember events on a national or societal level, it is a little different. We begin mourning with Yom HaShoah and remember a great loss of the Jewish People. One week later we mourn the loss of those who made the ultimately sacrifice for the country of Israel. Yet, within one day of commemorating Memorial Day, we celebrate Israeli Independence Day.
So the memory process works opposite when it works on a national level compared to a personal, individual level.
Reasons why I love Israel…
Many celebrate Israeli Independence Day by talking about why they love Israel. There are many reasons why I love Israel. Maybe together we can get 69 reasons in honor of Israel’s 69th birthday.
- To start, the Old City of Jerusalem is 1 square kilometer and yet has 48 monasteries and churches, over 30 mosques, and 142 streets and alleys.
- Israeli wine. There are 145 wineries in Israel.
- Lemonade with mint
- Shabbat is a national celebrated holiday.
- The Night Festival of Jerusalem
- Israeli Cats.
- Israel holds the Guiness Record of the biggest plate of hummus.
- Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
- The Ramon Crater
- Renting a bike in Tel Aviv.
- Some of the most beautiful hiking… EVER!
- LBGT Pride and acceptance throughout the country. Especially in Tel Aviv.
- Religious divides aren’t clear cut. There are all shades of observance.
- Israeli chutzpah
- Israelis rank high on tests of happiness.
- AND….Chocolate Milk in a bag.
- The Dead Sea- the lowest place on Earth… and only see you can float in.
Still need more?!
- And don’t forget, Medical Technology.
- First, Ber Sheva’s Negev feel.
- Haifa’s diversity and proof coexistence happens
- Tel Aviv’s energetic, inspiring atmosphere.
- Jerusalem’s holiness… to so many people.
- Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University are some of the world’s best universities.
- The Knesset (parliament) building has the largest solar field of any parliament in the world.
- The city in Northern Israel with stairs throughout the city called Ma’alot, meaning “to go up.”
- The beauty and spirituality of Tzfat.
- National Geographic listed Tel Aviv as one of the top 10 seafront city meccas.
- The bookstore + café stores of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
- A gazelle herd also calls Jerusalem home in a park decided specifically for them.
Wait! There’s more….
- First off, while we may different backgrounds there is a common thread connecting us together
- The sense of family felt between each and every one of us living in Israel.
- On the same note, the love of life you see in every Israeli. After work hours, you can see Israelis out at restaurants and bars, celebrating life.
- The energy Israelis have. It’s not just Tel Aviv that never sleeps, it’s the entire country
- And…there is a story behind everything: why the flag looks the way it does, the reason why the day starts in the evening, everything….
- The immediate response and care units Israel sends in times of natural disaster and need.
- But, don’t forget a yearning to improve those very things once they learn those things.
- A curiosity and drive to learn why things work.
- Over three thousand years of history and its proof throughout the country.
- Every Israeli has an opinion about which line you get in at the grocery store, or which bus stop you get off at.
- Israeli Music (Avraham Tal, Omer Adam, Eyal Golan, Muki)
- Especially worth noting is Israeli food (the shakshuka, falafel, shwarma, and that’s just the start of it).
Seems like there’s more!
- Let’s start off with the diversity of the country. It is the Jewish State, yet we truly are a mosaic of citizens.
- Especially relevant for families-The Museums. There is a museum about everything and there is always a special option catered just to kids, so they can learn as well.
- The toilet flushes. Since there’s a water issue in Israel, there are two different flushes on the toilet to help manage how much water we use. That’s just AWESOME!
- While we’re on the matter, Israel treat over 90% of our wastewater (more than any country in the world).
- Israel’s biggest garbage dump is home to a great park and named after an Israeli Prime Minister.
- Menus in English. Need I say more?
Don’t forget these great reasons to love Israel!
- A true democracy. Voter turnouts in Israel put the United States to shame.
- The weather is great all year long. It’s great when it rains, it’s great when it’s sunny.
- When a new pharmacy opened across from an older one on a Jerusalem street, the gossip was about close competition in Jewish law.
- What about an Israeli porcupine dug up a 1,400- year-old oil lamp?
- In addition, Israeli archeologists have dug up much more. We can watch ancient history come alive.
- And the markets- fresh fruit and vegetables all day, every day.
- On Independence Day, Israel holds a national competition where high school students show their knowledge of the TaNaKh.
And then there’s…
- The combination of science and nature. Want an example? Israeli scientists have shown that pomegranates help fight hypertension, heart disease, and brain deterioration.
- And the Iron Dome, defending citizens against rocket attacks since 2011.
- The late Christooher Reeve called Israel the “world center” for research on paralysis treatment.
- In addition, Simcha Blass’s water irrigation system
- Also, Birthright- Taglit groups come to Israel to explore what Israel really means.
- Kibbutz Ein Gedi is home to over 600 rare species of trees, shrubs, and flowers from all over the world.
- The ancient scrolls of Qumran were found by accident when a Bedouin shepard went looking for his lost sheep.Yet it is one of the most important Jewish archeological founds discovered.
- Hamat Gader is the oldest and largest spa complex in Israel from 2,000 years ago.
- In addition, the Israel National Trail is 1,000 kilometers and stretches over several different geographies.
- Then there is the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem is the oldest, continually used cemetery in the world.
- Timna Park, just north of Eilat, is home to the world’s oldest copper mines.
- So….the glue on Israeli stamps is kosher.
- And every year on Independence Day, the glasses store Halperin has a sale based on Israel’s age. This year everything in the store is at a 69% discount.
- Most noteworthy for me, Israel is home to my husband and his family.
- Most importantly…. there is just no other country like it.
So, what now?
In conclusion, if you are looking to celebrate Israeli Independence Day here in Israel, check out some of Samantha Israel Tours’ sample itineraries. And have a happy Israeli Independence Day 2017.