Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on the 5th of the Jewish lunar month Iyar, celebrating the declaration of the state of Israel by David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, and the end of the British Mandate of Palestine.
For the first time in two thousand year, the Jewish people had a state in their homeland. Close to half of the world’s Jewish population now lives in the Jewish state. Israel is a world leader in science and technology and contributed a disproportionate amount to high-tech, medicine and science worldwide.
An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl on the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The ceremony includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), a dramatic presentation, a ritual march of soldiers carrying the Flag of Israel, forming elaborate structures (such as a Menorah, Magen David and a number which represents the age of Israel) and the lighting of twelve beacons (one for each of the Tribes of Israel).
A few weeks before Israeli Independence Day, people hang flags from their balconies and from their car windows. The words to a popular Israeli Independence Day song are “kol ha’aretz, degalim, degalim” which means “the whole county, flags, flags.”
According to JTA, this year Israelis fanned out across the country for hikes, picnics and ceremonies to mark Israel’s 61st birthday, Yom Ha’atzmaut kicking off last Tuesday with a festive official ceremony at Mt. Herzl consisting of songs, dance and speeches. The theme of this year’s Independence Day is the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv’s founding.