|REMEMBRANCE DAY/INDEPENDENCE DAY|
Israel celebrates its Independence Day (Yom Haatsmaut) on 5 Iyar, according to the Jewish calendar; this day falls in early spring. Independence Day is preceded by Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) recalling and honoring those who fell in the defense of the State of Israel.
Independence Day is a celebration of the renewal of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. In this land, the Jewish people began to develop its distinctive religion and culture some 4,000 years ago, and here it has preserved an unbroken physical presence, for centuries as a sovereign state, at other times under foreign domination. Throughout their long history, the yearning to return to the Land has been the focus of Jewish life. With the establishment of the state of Israel fifty years ago, in 1948, Jewish independence, lost two thousand years earlier, was restored.
We have attempted here to provide the basis for a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel, including a ceremony honoring the fallen on Yom Hazikaron and the transition from the sorrow of Yom Hazikaron to the joy of Independence Day. We have also included selected readings and songs covering 50 years of independence.
Yom Hazikaron, a day of remembrance for those who fell in the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel and in its defense, is marked during the 24 hours preceding Yom Haatsmaut (Israels Independence Day). On Yom Hazikaron the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the countrys independence and its continued existence.
Yom Hazikaron is a day of collective and personal anguish mingled with awe and honor for the fallen. It is a day on which the living rededicate themselves to the State of Israel, so that they may be worthy of the sacrifice of those who died for its survival.
In Israel, Yom Hazikaron commences countrywide with the sound of sirens proclaiming a two-minute silence during which all activity and traffic cease. Flags are flown at half mast and memorial ceremonies are held all over the country. Ending at sundown, the somber, reflective mood of Yom Hazikaron gives way to the celebration of Yom Haatsmaut, a transition which emphasizes the lasting tie between the sacrifice of the countrys fallen and the continued existence of a vibrant and dynamic State of Israel.
Lighting the Remembrance Torch
We light this remembrance torch as a symbol, to honor all the heroes and heroines of our generation; the partisan groups, the ghetto fighters and the underground defenders, the innocent victims of terror attacks, and those who fought in the wars to defend the State of Israel since its establishment.
Independence Day, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, is a particularly meaningful celebration for its citizens, who have physically and actively participated in the creation of the state and have witnessed the changes that have characterized it over the last 50 years.
In Israel, on the eve of Independence Day, as Remembrance Day draws to a close, a central torch-lighting ceremony takes place on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the burial place of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, and of Israels leaders. The ceremony is held under the auspices of the speaker of the Knesset and begins with the recital of the Yizkor Remembrance prayer, in memory of the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces. Torches are then lit by 12 citizens from all walks of life in Israel, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The torchbearers are chosen to represent phases in the nations struggle for statehood and survival. This is followed by the raising of the national flag; a speech by the speaker of the Knesset; the ceremonial handing-over of the standards of the IDF and a march-past; presentations by dance groups; the singing of Hatikvah, the national anthem; and fireworks.
Around the country, municipalities and local authorities sponsor free public celebrations, including performances by popular artists; fireworks which can be seen all over the city; and loud-speakers broadcasting Israeli music. Multitudes go "downtown to participate in the holiday spirit.
On Independence Day, Israel Prizes in Jewish Studies; Humanities and Literature; Social Sciences and Education; Exact Sciences; Science, Agriculture and Medicine; and the Arts are awarded. Instituted in 1953, these prizes are presented each year by the Minister of Education and Culture to persons and organizations who have performed outstanding work in these fields.
The International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth, in which winners of competitions held in Israel and in Jewish communities abroad participate, is broadcast live on national television and attracts wide interest.
Army bases are opened to the public; IDF museums provide special shows free of charge; and air force fly-bys, as well as naval displays, take place.
Many citizens tour the countryside, traveling to battlefields of the War of Independence, visiting memorials to the fallen, going on nature hikes and, in general, spending the day outdoors picnicking and preparing barbecues.