Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) in Israel: the second half of a 48-hour emotional rollercoaster

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israeli flag independenceIndependence Day in Israel, known as Yom Ha’atzmaut in Hebrew, celebrates Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. It’s a day of fun, picnics, BBQ food, and parties. And lots of blue and white flags everywhere!

The day itself comes immediately after the heart-tugging emotions felt through the previous 24 hours for Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), as Israel remembers its fallen throughout its short history (though Israel has only been around since 1948 the list of fallen servicemen sadly grows ever longer). It might seem a little strange, celebrating immediately after you’ve been struggling to hold back the tears just hours earlier, but this is one of those special Israel moments, and it works. Would it work anywhere else in the world? Probably not.

So Independence Day turns those previous 24 hours of pain into a celebration of its existence, an existence based on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by Israel’s future first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion on 14 May 1948. This declaration came just hours before the official end of the British Mandate of Palestine, and while the state was recognized by many countries, Israel’s friendly Arab neighbors weren’t too keen on the idea, and declared war. The rest is, of course, history.

Official celebrations for Independence Day in Israel are usually centered in Jerusalem, and include an official Independence Eve shindig on Mount Herzl, which is usually shown live on Israeli TV. Other events on Independence Day Eve are everywhere, and there are some great parties to watch out for, especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Keep an eye out on our site or Facebook page as we usually try and give a quick rundown of the best places to be.

The day itself is full of other official events, but what will probably interest most Israelis is the mangal celebrations – the barbeque (mangal is Hebrew for grill)! Holidays in Israel are typically centered around food, and Independence Day is no exception.

And what about the other citizens of Israel – do they join in the Independence Day celebrations?

Well, some Arab citizens celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut but many refer to it as al-Nakba (the catastrophe), a tragic day in their history. Typically the Druze, Bedouin and Circassians, who often serve in the Israeli army, do celebrate Independence Day. What might seem surprising is the ultra-religious Jews, who join their Arab brethren in mourning, and often wear ashes and sackcloth, and have even been spotted burning Israeli flags…

If you do get caught up in some wild Independence Day celebrations, don’t forget to wish Israel a Happy Birthday!

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