This week the modern State of Israel turns sixty-nine years old. In her young, but not boring life, she has experienced many wars, heartaches, and far too many lives lost. However, she’s also seen miracles and victories, and she holds the lives of many different peoples and cultures within her borders.
Yom Haazmaut (Independence Day) is perhaps Israel’s happiest day of the year. How will the country we love so much celebrate sixty-nine years of life?
1) Torch Lighting Ceremony
Our happiest day of the year happens after the saddest day of the year. This happens for a reason. It reminds us every year that our joy comes at a great cost—there were those who gave their lives for the nation. The evening that concludes Israel’s Remembrance Day and begins Independence Day is marked with a Torch Lighting Ceremony.
The ceremony takes place in Jerusalem. As we transition from a day of sorrow to a day of joy, we make a distinction, much like a havdalah ceremony, between the sad and the happy. Lighting the torch in this ceremony is one of the greatest honors that can be given in Israel. It’s also an opportunity to show off Israel’s achievements over the year and to demonstrate the diversity of Israel’s society.
For example: In 2015, on Israel’s 67th Birthday, a young Israeli-Arab Journalist named Lucy Aharish was given the privilege to light the first torch of many that night. “I am honored to light this torch on Israel’s 67th birthday for all human beings wherever they may be who have not lost hope for peace”
This year it is rumored that for the first time a diaspora Jew will light one of the Independence Day torches. The name has not yet been released.
2) Dancing in the Streets
Once all the ceremonies have ended, the real party starts! Israelis set to the streets with massive Israeli flags, silly string, confetti, fireworks. The crazy dancing in the streets begins. It’s traditional to get big air blown hammer and hit each other on the head with it because, well, because we just can’t believe we are all alive and well in the country of our freedom.
3) Sleeping In…
Since the party goes so late the night before everyone enjoys the day off and sleeps in late the next morning.
4) Beach, Beach, Beach!
When we can sleep no longer, the day’s festivities start. Right around 10am the entire country wakes up, packs their cars, and in one mass exodus everyone heads to the Mediterranean. Israelis flock to the beaches in droves.
5) Al Ha-Aish!
There is nothing that the Israelis love more than a good ole-fashioned BBQ on the beach. In Hebrew its called “Al Ha-Aish,” which literally means “on the fire,” and it won’t take long for the Middle-Eastern atmosphere to fill with yummy BBQ smoke.
6) Facebook Profile Pics
And, oooh, how those profile pictures on facebook will change. Both young and old switch their profile picture to old army uniform photos, reminding the social media community that they too helped defend this country. It is a day of national pride, and no matter each one’s service in the IDF, we are all very proud to have put on the uniform of Israel.
7) Guns, Tanks, and Airplanes—Oh My!
Almost every military base in Israel will spend the week before Yom Haazmaut cleaning and shining up their equipment getting ready for the big day. On Independence Day the gates open and the shining equipment goes on display for the public to see. Air force bases will pull out their coolest combat planes; artillery bases will role out their massive tanks, and the children of Israel will get a chance to see the power of the army that protects them, up close and personal.
8) Oooh, That Israeli Music
The day can’t go by without blasting that Israeli music at every corner. Take a listen to this song and join along!
9) The Sky’s the Limit
Perhaps the greatest event of the day is the Israeli Air Force’s air show throughout the entire country. Take a look at some of the featured airplanes that will make their appearance again:
10) A Grateful Country
Events take place all over Israel, but perhaps the most important part of the day is the unifying feeling of gratitude and pride. We, as Israelis, love our country, and we love our cultural and our national identity. Check out this video for a few things we love about Israel!