Israel is celebrating its 69th birthday! While there are many similarities in the way Independence Day is celebrated by many nations around the world to the way it is celebrated in Israel, there are some major differences as well.
From its very first day of Independence, Israel had to stand up and defend itself from surrounding enemies who vowed to destroy it, throughout its early days, the country and its people had to build and defend the land. They had to educate, create industry, and innovate in technology and agriculture, all while keeping watch on its borders.
The people of Israel throughout the 69 years of independence have paid a dear price and the road to independence and maintaining it cost in the lives of thousands of young Israeli soldiers who gave their lives to defend it.
And so, the day preceding independence day in Israel, is Memorial Day, which follows the Holocaust Memorial Day. In so, we remember the sacrifices made so that the people of Israel can freely live in aspiration for peace in this Promised Land.
Amidst a very somber atmosphere, memorial ceremonies in the military cemeteries and visits to battlegrounds of past wars occur. The eve of independence begins with a massive ceremony/ display on Mount Hertzel in Jerusalem in participation of the president of the state of Israel, the prime minister and government and the IDF. 12 torches are lit to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel and celebrate, remember, recognize special accomplishments in our development into a leading nation among the United Nations. This major event declares the move from Memorial Day to independence Day and the beginning of celebrations with a massive display of fire works.
Throughout the land, municipalities and regional councils also hold celebrations in major town squares or in Kibbut centers. These celebrations include fireworks, performances and food and are enjoyed by tens of thousands of families. Kids light up their various LED light sticks, spin top party lights and spray each other with party string and foam (be warned – it can be really annoying!)
In recent years municipalities have been in constant competition on getting the best celebrity performances and singers leading to huge costs paid for these shows, which in turn have lead to massive criticism by the public of the unwarranted expenditure, which even lead to the public boycotting overspent extravagant events.
On the day of Independence, families spend the day in one of Israel’s favorite pastime activities – the BBQ! The smell of delicious BBQ meals fills the air. These take place everywhere, on the beach, at home, in National Parks and municipal parks.
Downside? The cleanup operation takes days!
In short, Independence Day is a great time to be in Israel and witness the people of Israel celebrating. There are so many places to visit to learn of Israel’s struggle to independence and for peace.
Happy Birthday, Israel!