Making Aliyah: my first Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Part II

There is a period of time where you feel the atmosphere changing in Israel. It’s not a moment like flipping a switch quickly, but more like a light on a dimmer switch: It starts out dark and gradually lightens until it’s fully on and bright.

That’s Yom Hazikaron-into-Yom Ha’atzmaut. The country is somber and slowly, as it gets to evening and nightfall the country comes alive. There is music, and partying and celebration. There have been flags out since right after Pessach, and people are walking around carrying flags, they’re waving out of cars.

This year I spent Yom Ha’atzmaut in Jerusalem. At night there are celebratory tefillot [prayer services] in many batei knesiyot [synagogues] and then I had a BBQ at my friends’ apartment and then went into town. There were three stages with three different performances going on—it was crazy! The best analogy I can give is New Year’s Eve in NYC. Packed with people, noise, security (OK, not quite the same, but still…), people dancing, partying, drinking, smoking. The buses run later than usual, but there is so much traffic and many streets are closed to traffic so people end up walking. There are so many people walking around, in the parks. There are fireworks until all hours, the streets are lit up.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut day you cannot walk anywhere without seeing at least five mangalim (barbecues). The air smells like a barbeque…because everyone is barbecuing. Israelis celebrate by barbecuing—you know the signs in the park that say it’s forbidden to have a open fire/BBQ/etc.? Those are just suggestions. Israelis barbecue all the time in the summer. But after each Independence Day (and other holidays), there are apparently many parks, such as Gan Sacker, where you see lots of circles of burned grass from mangalim gone awry. In Jerusalem there is also something called “The Living Museum” which is an afternoon-evening street fair where they have people in period costume walking around putting on short performances—scenes/reenactments—from when Israel was born and the events surrounding it. There are music and dance performances, food vendors, things like buses from when Israel was established…There are also other events going on all over the country—performances, concerts, gatherings. all over. And then there are fireworks to end the day.

It’s made all the more meaningful and feels like there’s more of an impact, because it’s immediately after Yom Hazikaron, the day when we have just mourned all those that were killed so we can celebrate this day, freely, as we want.

If you missed it, here is Part I of the article…

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