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Yom Ha'Atzmaut/Independence Day * - Jewish

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Time: 
Thu, 19/04/2018 (All day)

Yom Ha'Atzmaut/Independence Day - Jewish

Independence Day (Hebrew: יום העצמאות‎‎ Yom Ha’atzmaut, lit. “Day of Independence”) is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.  It is celebrated either on the 5th of Iyar, according to the Hebrew calendar, or on one of the preceding or following days, depending on which day of the week this date falls on.  Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is followed by Independence Day. 

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History 

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.” [1]

Independence was declared eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948. 

Declaration of the State of Israel 

The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel of 14 May 1948 [2] 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 recognised by the United States de facto, the Soviet Union, [3] and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, which marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate. 

Official events 

Most of the official events take place in Jerusalem, the seat of Israel’s government, and are broadcast live on Israeli television. 

Independence Day eve 

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. 

Visitors around an IDF Caterpillar D9 at the Israel Defense Forces exhibition at Yad La-Shiryon, Independence Day 2012. 

Reception of the President of Israel for honouring excellence in 120 IDF soldiers.  The event takes place in the President’s official residence in Jerusalem. 

Israeli families, regardless of religious observance or affiliation, celebrate with picnics and barbecues (known in Israeli slang as a mangal – from the Arabic word منقل meaning “stove”).  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 

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 [4] The Rabbinate also ruled that they were “unable to sanction instrumental music and dances on this day which occurs during the sephirah period.” [5] 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 [6] and by Rabbi Joseph B.  Soloveitchik, leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America [7]

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 [8] (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 [9] A number of authorities have promoted the inclusion of a version of Al Hanisim (for the miracles..) in the Amidah prayer [10]

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 [11]

The Conservative Movement read the Torah portion of Deuteronomy 7:12–8:18, and include a version of Al Hanisim [12] The Reform Movement suggests the inclusion of Ya’aleh V’yavo in the Amidah prayer. 

Timing 

Independence Day is celebrated on the 5th day of Iyar (ה’ באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day on which Israeli independence was proclaimed, when David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence.  The corresponding Gregorian date was 14 May 1948. 

If the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, the celebrations are moved up to the preceding Thursday.  This rule has been effective since 1951.  If the 5th of Iyar is on a Monday, the festival is postponed to Tuesday.  This rule has been effective since 2004, in order to avoid potential violation of Sabbath laws by preparing for Yom Hazikaron or Independence Day on a Shabbat. 

Palestinian reactions and The Nakba 

While some Palestinian citizens of Israel celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, others regard it as a tragic day in their history referred to as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”) [13] [14]

“Your independence is our Nakba” is a slogan constantly in use. 

Arab-Israeli MK Taleb El Sana proclaimed to Nakba protesters that “the Nakba is equivalent to the destruction of the First and Second Temples.” [15]

On 23 March 2011, the Knesset approved, by a vote of 37 to 25, [16] a change to the budget, giving the Israeli Finance Minister the discretion to reduce government funding to any non-governmental organization (NGO) that organizes Nakba commemoration events [17] [18]

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)[19] 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.” [20] [21]

 

In specific, the law enables the state to fine local communities and other state-funded groups for holding events that mark what the Arab community calls the Nakba.  Fines, deducted from a group’s operating budget, could equal up to three times the event’s sponsorship cost; repeat violations would double the fines.