Friday, 17 January 2020
Local Time In Israel Asia - Jerusalem


(Reading time: 2 - 4 minutes)

Israel Independence Day - Yom Ha'atzmaut

Hebrew: יום העצמעות

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Background & Traditions

David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence on the 14th May, 1948 corresponding to the 5th day of the month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar.  Later, David Ben Gurion became Israel's first Prime Minister.  His declaration concluded that the Jewish state in Eretz Israel,  would be known as the "State of Israel".

Independence day is marked as a public holiday in Israel but before the celebration, there is great sadness and an outpouring of grief.

Yom Hazikaron - Remembrance Day

The day before Yom Ha'atzmaut is marked as a day of mourning. Israel commemorates all her soldiers that fell defending the State of Israel, its heroes and all the civilian victims of battles, wars and terrorist events.  This day is called the Remembrance Day or Yom Hazikaron.  It is a day of mourning and is marked with official ceremonies and memorial services across the country. Read more...

Yom Ha'atzmaut - Independence Day

At 8pm on the eve of the 5th of Iyar, the heavy sadness of Remembrance Day turns into joy as official and public Independence Day activities start. Free concerts, dancers, singers and artists perform at venues country-wide.  Fireworks light up the sky.  Street vendors sell felafel, Israeli flags and party items.  People go out and many party late into the night.  It is a fun and festive evening.

Yom Ha'Atzmaut Celebrations

During the day of the 5th of Iyar, celebrations continue.  Families get together at their homes or in public and nature parks.  Kibbutz communities have fun activities for their members and guests;  tractor rides, water slides and other fun stuff for ages 0 -99.

It is customary to have a huge BBQ lunch.  Israelis enjoy eating steak, shishlik, kebabs, ribs and fish all prepared on the grill.  Pita, hummous,tehina, middle-eastern and other salads accompany the meal.  End your meal with the first watermelons of the season.  Families and friends spend the afternoon together chatting, catching up, drinking Turkish coffee and snacking on varieties of garinim (roasted seeds of all kinds; sunflower, pumpkin etc.), nuts and toasted marshmallows.

On Yom Ha'atzmaut The Israel Prize is awarded - largely regarded as the country's highest honor - it is awarded to Israeli citizens or organizations who have displayed excellence in their fields or have contributed in a significant way to Israeli culture. The prize is awarded in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President and the Prime Minister.

The International Bible Contest, also held on Yom Ha'atzmaut, is an annual, worldwide competition on the Tanach (Jewish Bible) for high school students. Regional competitions are held in the Diaspora, and the winners of these contests, together with their Israeli counterparts, participate in a final quiz contest in Jerusalem.  The Prime Minister usually attends.

As this fun day draws to an end, Israelis head back to their homes, happy and satisfied and just a little reluctant to have to go back to work the following day!

Note: Timing

Yom Ha'atzmaut is celebrated on the 5th day of Iyar.  However if the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, the Independence Day celebrations are moved up to the preceding Thursday.  If the 5th of Iyar is on a Monday, the festival is postponed to Tuesday.  This is to avoid potential violation of Sabbath laws by preparing for Yom Hazikaron or Yom Ha'atzmaut on a Shabbat.


Useful Terminology: Learn New Hebrew Words & Phrases

English, Hebrew & Transliterations


English Transliterations Hebrew
BBQ Mangal מנגל
Celebration/s Chagiga/chagigot  חגיגה/חגיגות
Fireworks Zikukim  זיקוקים
Independence Day Yom Ha'atzmaut  יום העצמעות
Independence Day Eve Erev Yom Ha'atzmaut  ערב יום העצמעות
International Bible Quiz Chidon HaTanach חידון התנך
Israeli flag Degel Yisrael דגל ישראל
Israel Prize Pras Yisrael פרס ישראל
Remembrance Day Yom Hazikaron  יום הזיכרון
Remembrance Day Eve  Erev Yom Hazikaron  ערב יום הזיכרון



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