Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date 5 Iyar in that year, Yom Ha'atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date each year. To avoid religious problems, today it is celebrated either on 5 Iyar or on one of the preceding or following days; the day of the week it falls on being the decisive factor. Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.
In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening. The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut will take place on 18-19 April 2018.
Independence Day is founded on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership headed by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948. The mood outside of Ben-Gurion's home just prior to the declaration was joyous:
"The Jews of Palestine ... were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind's largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world's Jews, that people was returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state."
The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel of 14 May 1948 expresses the declaration to be by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the basis of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. The operative paragraph concludes with the words of Ben-Gurion, where he thereby declares the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
The new state was quickly recognized by the United States de facto, the Soviet Union, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, which marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate.
An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on the evening of Independence Day. The ceremony includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), artistic performances, a Flag of Israel, forming elaborate structures (such as a Menorah, Magen David) and the ceremonial lighting of twelve torches, one for each of the Tribes of Israel. Every year a dozen Israeli citizens, who made a significant social contribution in a selected area, are invited to light the torches. Many cities hold outdoor performances in cities' squares featuring leading Israeli singers and fireworks displays. Streets around the squares are closed to cars, allowing people to sing and dance in the streets.
Israeli families traditionally celebrate with picnics and barbecues. Balconies are decorated with Israeli flags, and small flags are attached to car windows. Some leave the flags hoisted until after Yom Yerushalayim. Israeli Television channels air the official events live, and classic cult Israeli movies and skits are shown.
Religious customs Hallel recited at the Day to Praise Israel Independence Day event in Jerusalem, 23 April 2015
In response to widespread public feeling, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel decided during 1950–51 that Independence Day should be given the status of a minor Jewish holiday on which Hallel be recited. Their decision that it be recited (without a blessing) gave rise to a bitter public dispute, with Agudath Israel rejecting the notion of imbuing the day with any religious significance whatsoever, and religious Zionists believing the blessing should be obligatory. The Rabbinate also ruled that they were "unable to sanction instrumental music and dances on this day which occurs during the sephirah period." The recitation of the blessing over Hallel was introduced in 1973 by Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. The innovation was strongly denounced by his Sephardic counterpart, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America.
The Religious Zionist movement created a liturgy for the holiday which sometimes includes the recitation of some psalms and the reading of the haftarah of Isaiah 10:32–12:6, which is also read on the last day of Pesach in the Diaspora, on the holiday morning. Other changes to the daily prayers include reciting Hallel, saying the expanded Pesukei D'Zimrah of Shabbat (the same practice that is observed almost universally on Hoshanah Rabbah), and/or blowing the Shofar. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik questioned the Halachic imperative in canonising these changes (it is not clear what his personal practice was regarding the recital of Hallel). In any case, the majority of his students recite Hallel without the blessings. A number of authorities have promoted the inclusion of a version of Al Hanisim (for the miracles...) in the Amidah prayer. In 2015 Koren Publishers Jerusalem published a machzor dedicated to observance of Independence Day, in addition to Jerusalem Day.
Most Haredim make no changes in their daily prayers. People affiliated to the Edah HaChareidis mourn the establishment of Israel on Independence Day, claiming that the establishment of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah is a sin and heresy. Some even fast on this day and recite prayers for fast days.
However, nowadays Independence Day is rarely celebrated on the 5th of Iyar itself, and on most years is moved forward or backwards by one or two days. According to the rules of the Jewish calendar explained in Days of week on Hebrew calendar, the 5th of Iyar can fall on a Monday, a Wednesday, a Friday or a Saturday. To avoid violation of Shabbat prohibitions, it was decided in 1951 that if the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, the celebrations would be moved up to the preceding Thursday (3 or 4 of Iyar). Additionally, since 2004, if the 5th of Iyar is on a Monday, the festival is postponed to Tuesday (6 of Iyar). Monday is avoided in order to avoid potential violation of Sabbath laws by preparing for Yom Hazikaron (which one day before Independence Day) on a Shabbat. As a result, Independence Day falls between 3 and 6 of Iyar, and can be on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It will only actually be on the 5th of Iyar when this date happens to be a Wednesday.
Gregorian dates for Independence Day:
16 April 2013 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)
6 May 2014 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)
23 April 2015 (Thursday, advanced one day to Iyar 4)
12 May 2016 (Thursday, advanced one day to Iyar 4)
2 May 2017 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)
Israeli Arab reactions and The Nakba
While some Israeli Arabs celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, others regard it as a tragic day in their history referred to as al-Nakba ("the catastrophe")
"Your independence is our Nakba" is a slogan constantly in use.
"Jewish independence is our day of mourning" was chanted by thousands of demonstrating Arab Israelis.
Arab-Israeli MK Taleb El Sana proclaimed to Nakba protesters that "the Nakba is equivalent to the destruction of the First and Second Temples."
After months of legislative limbo due to numerous appeals filed by multiple organizations (e.g. Adalah, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, as well as several Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel) the Supreme Court of Israel rejected the appeals, and upheld the Nakba Law, on January 5, 2012. President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Eliezer Rivlin and Miriam Naor concluded: "The declarative level of the law does indeed raise difficult and complex questions. However, from the outset, the constitutionality of the law depends largely upon the interpretation given to the law's directives." Deductions could equal up to three times the event's sponsorship cost; repeat violations would double the amount.
This coming Thursday, (today) Israel will celebrate its 70th anniversary. The following essay (with my few emendations) was written by my rabbinic colleague, Rabbi Josh Flug, and offers a beautiful and inspiring message as we approach this important commemoration.
"On May 13, 1948 (the fourth of Iyar), a committee was convened to finalize the text of Israel's Declaration of Independence. One of the sticking points was whether to include a mention of Gd in the Declaration. Some secularists insisted that the new State of Israel is a secular state and therefore, Gd should not be mentioned. Others, led by Rav Yehuda Leib Fishman (Maimon) insisted that Gd must be mentioned. A compromise was reached and the name Tzur Yisrael appears in the Declaration — מתוך בטחון בצור ישראל. Those who believe in Gd know that Tzur Yisrael refers to HaShem, and those who do not can interpret it as the might of the Jewish people.
However, unbeknownst to those present, Rav Fishman had a trick up his sleeve. When it came to sign his name, he signed it, בעז"ה יהודה ליב הכהן פישמן. By adding b'Ezras HaShem, Gd got an explicit mention in the document.
Use of the word Tzur to refer to HaShem is found throughout Tanach and we use it throughout davening. Most notably, in Ha'azinu, Tzur appears eight times, though some of those references are chol, not kodesh. In fact, the ambiguity of tzur is explicitly referenced in the Shiras Ha'azinu —כי לא כצורינו צורם— where we see the contrast between HaShem as The Rock and the other nations' belief in their own might.
Why is HaShem described as Tzur? Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch (Devarim 32:4) suggests that Tzur connotes two ideas about our relationship with HaShem:
a) An unwavering "solid rock" commitment. HaShem is committed to the Jewish people to ensure that we will always survive and we can rely on that like we can lean on a rock;
b) Just like a rock doesn't change, HaShem doesn't change, and our relationship with Him is the same no matter what environment we find ourselves in.
Yet the Talmud (Berachos 10a) has an additional level of interpretation. There, our Sages understand the word, tzur, to refer to HaShem as an artist. How can this be explained? R. Simcha Zisel Broida (cited in Haggadah Knesses Yisrael, pg. 43) suggests that the Gemara is trying to convey the idea that HaShem's Providence works like a picture. When an artist starts to draw a picture, we don't exactly know what the picture eventually is going to look like until it is finished. The more detail there is, the less we know about the big picture. Similarly, we don't understand the ways of HaShem as they are happening. Sometimes it takes years, decades or centuries to figure out and see the big picture.
On the day of the founding of the State of Israel, nobody knew what her fate would be. The Arab nations immediately declared war on a one-day-old country that did not yet have a chance to assemble of formal military force. The signatories signed the document with a long-term vision of hope and optimism but knowing full well that its effect may be fleeting. The use of the name Tzur Yisrael to describe HaShem was most apropos. In addition to Him being the Rock that we rely on in difficult times, He is also the Artist who paints a picture that sometimes can only be understood from a distance. Nobody knew what He was painting a short three years after the conclusion of the Holocaust, but now that we have almost 70 years of perspective, we have a better picture of what the Tzur Yisrael was drawing. Rav Fishman's signature serves as a simple and permanent reminder that the Tzur Yisrael is a reference to Gd's ongoing providence in protecting our Land and our people."
As believing Jews, we are enjoined to be sensitive to how the Hand of HaShem is manifest not only in historical events but even in certain simple halachic dicta. Recently, I came across this incredible insight of the great Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Even Ha'ezer, 126). He discusses why, in a get, the month of Iyyar is spelled with two yuds. He quotes from the Yalkut that Iyar is the acronym of אברהם יצחק יעקב רחל. Why is Rachel included in this group? R. Isaac Bernstein suggested that each of these personalities plays an important role in the return to Israel. Iyyar has to be written with two yuds to include Yitzchak and Yaakov, but it also has to include Rachel because the prophet (Yirmiyahu 31:14,15) so poignantly speaks of Rachel crying for her children awaiting their return and HaShem's promise, "Your sons will return to their borders." Iyyar, the month of Israel's anniversary as a State after some 2,000 years, represents our return to our Land.
As we celebrate the miraculous reality of the State of Israel, we must be forever grateful to HaShem for granting us the unique privilege of witnessing these events. The "picture" is not yet finished but the Tzur Yisroel is still the Divine artist who will surely complete this magnificent canvas of Jewish travail and triumph with the coming of Mashiach.
And here too, may we be worthy of experiencing that glorious event speedily in our day.
Yom Haatzmaut events for 2018
The first thing you will notice about Yom Haatzmaut is the emotional transition from the sadness of Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Day of Remembrance, to Israel Independence Day, an official national holiday which has become an important day in the Jewish calendar, being celebrated by Jewish communities around the world. Yom Haatzmaut begins at sundown immediately following Yom Hazikaron and ends after sundown the following day. It celebrates the declaration of independence of the State of Israel in 1948, making this the 70th anniversary!
Yom Haatzmaut is held on the fifth of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it falls on the evening of April 18, 2018 and celebrations last until the evening of April 19, 2018.
The state ceremony that brings in Yom Haatzmaut takes place at Mount Herzl, Israel's military cemetery, by Theodor Herzl's grave. And from there the city erupts with events, parties, outdoor get togethers, concerts and more!
Join a street party on Jaffa Street/Hillel Street/Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Street and soak in the authentic spirit of Independence Day with music, beverages, and lots of fun.
Wear clothes that you don't care about too much since they might get stained by all the foam sprayed at you throughout the night. Also beware you might get bopped on the head with huge, inflated blue and white hammers.
Looking for more street celebrations? Go to Machane Yehuda Market and you'll find another 3 DJ booths that will make you dance all night long.
When: 10:00 pm Cost: Free
Independence Day Concert at Jerusalem Theater
Jerusalem Theater will host the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra together with the Israel Broadcasting Authority and conductor Frederick Shazlan.
Where: Henry Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater When: 9:30 pm For tickets call Tel. 1-700-70-4000.
Student Union Independence Day Party
This party will feature Israel's most popular DJ's that will get you dancing into the night. With stellar views of the Old City Walls – absolutely magical!
In case this is your first Yom Haatzmaut in Israel, you may as well be warned that an amazingly large amount of barbequing takes place on this important day. Parks and nature reserves are busy with Israelis who set up temporary homes for the day in order to grill their meat as a thanksgiving for this gift of a homeland.
If this is how you choose to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, grab your charcoal barbeque, your nafnaf (a piece of cardboard or plastic used to fan the coals to a perfect temperature), pita, meat and salads, arrive at the park of your choice early to get a perfect location, and enjoy the Jerusalem sunshine!
If on the other hand, you're looking for other ways to take in the day, there are plenty of events and many cultural institutions are open for free or with a minimum entrance fee.
The celebrations around Jerusalem start Monday evening, and almost anywhere you go in the city, you're sure to find some kind of event or party.
Be sure to dress warmly since Jerusalem's evenings can be chilly. And at midnight, look towards Independence Park (next to King George and Agron streets) for fireworks.
The official Independence Day ceremony that kicks off the festivities with the lighting of twelve beacons, one for each tribe of Israel. The ceremony will feature ceremonial units, Yizkor prayer, words by Chairman of the Knesset, torch-lighting, transfer of flags ceremony, military parade, singing of the hymn, the IDF disabled veterans' band, other military bands, and poetry reading. Entry by invitation only.
The main stage will feature live performances by Avi Messika, Shay Cohen, Yossi Azulay, Liron Amram, Balkan Beat Box, and Lior Narkis. Led by Elad Immadi.
Fireworks shows at 10:30 pm and 12:00 am.
Where: Independence Park, City Center, Jerusalem When: 10:00 pm Cost: Free
Celebrate Independence Day at Teddy Park
This celebration will include the Independence Day prayer and public singing and dancing into the night. Special guests: Daniel Zakkai and Alma Zohar.
When: 7:00 pm Cost: Free. Based on availability.
Independence Day at The First Station
The First Station is thrilled to host Independence Day events with a special ceremony by Kehilat Kol Haneshama – a reform Jewish congregation based in Jerusalem. Following the celebration, a festive evening prayer will be read.
Israel Museum welcomes the whole family to join a proper Independence Day celebration with hora dancing performances for all ages by local dance troupes, public folk dancing at 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, and a live musical performance by Amir Shraiber and the Israeli Groove. The band will be performing at 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:00 pm.
Where: The Israel Museum, 11 Derech Ruppin Street, Jerusalem When: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Cost: Free for children. Adults – 20 NIS; Seniors – 10 NIS Contact: 02-6708811
Jerusalem Jubilee Celebrations at Tower of David Museum
Photo: Courtesy of Tower of David Museum PR
Celebrate Jerusalem's jubilee with free activities for the whole family centered around the symbol of Jerusalem and the symbol of the State of Israel. You'll find guidance stations, games, theater spectacles, and live music. A special Independence Day show will take place at 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm. See you there!
Where: Tower of David Museum, Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem When: Activities: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Museum Hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm Cost: Free admission. Based on availability.
Jerusalem Time Elevator
Photo: Courtesy of Jerusalem Time Elevator
Celebrate Independence Day by going back in time! Before you go on and explore the city's beautiful landmarks, hop into the Jerusalem Time Elevator and get a quick tour around the complex and exceptionally rich history of the lovely city of Jerusalem. You can also choose to take the "I Jerusalem" virtual tour and visit Machane Yehuda Market, see the city from a bird's eye view, and understand the history, the culture, and of course – the people.
Check out the Independence Day festivities at the Bloomfield Science Museum built around the theme of "thinking outside the box". Visit a cardboard art exhibition, participate in cardboard design and building workshops for kids, enjoy the "Cartonella" show, and watch a fascinating 3D movie. You can experience it all at a reduced admission fee in honor of the holiday!
Where: Bloomfield Science Museum, Museum Row, Givat Ram, Jerusalem When: From 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Cost: Regular – 10 NIS; Free for children under 5 years of age. Film – 5 NIS
Free Guided Tours at Begin Center
Photo: Courtesy of Menachem Begin Heritage Center
How much do you know about Israel's history? Take advantage of this special day and enjoy a free tour for the whole family at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. During this incredible tour, you will be exposed to the rich life of one the country's most influential leaders – Menachem Begin. Please register in advance.
Join a true independence celebration at the Bible Lands Museum and enjoy 6 different tours for the whole family between 10:15 am – 2:00 pm. While you're here, watch a live show with Sarale Sharon at 11:00 am, and don't forget to visit "Gods, Heroes & Mortals in Ancient Greece" exhibition.
Where: 21 Shmuel Stephen Wise Street, Jerusalem When: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Cost: Free
Agnon House – For Families
This year is all about "drawing in books" at Agnon House. Come and celebrate Independence Day with a wide range of family-friendly activities.
Theatrical Tours at 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Discussion with Author Nurit Zarchi and Illustrator Hila Chavkin at 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Illustration, caricature, and comics workshops at 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Illustrated theater "Chachamim Balayla" and open event at 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Where: Agnon House, 16 Klauzner Street, Jerusalem When: From 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Cost: Free Contact: *2967
Traffic, Transportation and Parking on Yom Ha'atzmaut Eve & Day
For information and details about parking and traffic during Memorial Day Eve and Israel's Memorial Day, please call 106 municipality call center or call *8787 for CallKav call center.