Israel, a country of many beautiful features, with diversity and creative energy at its core, celebrates today its National Day, marking 68 years since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Yom Ha’atzmaut , Israel’s Independence Day has become an important day in the Jewish calendar, being celebrated by all the Jewish communities around the world.
The official National Day is held on the fifth of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it has fallen on the evening of Wednesday, May 11 and celebrations will last until the evening of Thursday, May 12.
The first thing to be noticed is that Yom Ha’atzmaut is the emotional transition from the sadness of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Day of Remembrance which honours the memory of the Fallen Israeli Soldiers.
The official “switch” from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut takes place a few minutes after sundown, with a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery in which the national flag is raised from half staff to the top of the pole. Usually, the president of Israel delivers a speech of congratulations while soldiers representing all the various branches and units of the Israel Defense Forces parade with their flags. In recent decades this smaller-scale ceremony has replaced a much larger daytime parade which was the main event during the 1950s and ’60s. The evening parade is followed by a torch lighting (hadlakat masuot) ceremony, symbolically marking the country’s achievements in all spheres of life.
This year’s theme is “Women – Accomplishments and Challenges”, with women lightening the twelve torches, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel . The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence -the very existence of the state – to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.
Other than the official ceremonies, Israelis celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut in a variety of ways. In the major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, nighttime festivities are focused on the main streets where crowds gather to watch public shows offered for free by the municipalities and the government. In rural communities, many people spend the night dancing Israeli folk dances or singing Israeli songs. During the daytime thousands of Israeli families go out on hikes and picnics. Many army bases are also opened for civilians to visit to display the achievements of the Israeli Defense Forces. Yom Ha’atzmaut is concluded with the ceremony of granting the “Israel Prize” recognizing individual Israelis for their unique contribution to the country’s culture, science, arts, and the humanities.
A major attribute of the dynamic Israeli society is its cultural richness, emerging from a mosaic created by millions of immigrants. Despite its small size and limited resources, Israel has become also a flourishing innovation hub, offering remarkable scientific and technological advancements in many fields.
Moreover, Israel actively contributes to the development of other countries, by sharing its knowledge and expertise, firmly believing in the importance of joint efforts in order to meet global challenges.