Yom Ha'atzmaut

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Yom Ha'atzmaut
Hebrew: יום העצמאות
PikiWiki Israel 2482 independence day aerial demonstration מטס יום העצמאות.JPG
An air display in Tel Aviv on Israel's 61st Independence Day
Observed by Israelis
Celebrations Displaying the flag of Israel and other national symbols, family meetings, fireworks, barbecues, picnics, concerts
Observances Mount Herzl ceremony, Ceremonial lighting of the twelve torches, International Bible Contest, Israel Prize ceremony.
Date 5 Iyar
2013 date 16 April
2014 date 05 May
Related to Yom Hazikaron, al-Nakba

Yom Ha'atzmaut (Hebrew: יום העצמאותYōm hā-ʿAṣmāʾūṯ   lit. "Independence Day") is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. It is celebrated on 5th of Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar. Yom Ha'atzmaut is preceded by Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.


Declaration of the State of Israel

Yom Ha'atzmaut centers around the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership led 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 (8) hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948.

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 strength 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 Soviet Union, the United States de facto,[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.

Yom Ha'atzmaut observances[edit]

Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres at the celebration in 2012
Independence Day celebrations in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, 2008
Israeli Air Force Yom Ha'atzmaut flypast, 2011

Official events[edit]

Most of the official events take place in Israel's proclaimed capital city Jerusalem, and are broadcast live on television.

Yom Ha'atzmaut eve[edit]

An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on the evening of Yom Ha'atzmaut. 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.

Yom Ha'atzmaut day[edit]

International Bible Contest, 1985
Visitors around an IDF Caterpillar D9 at the Israel Defense Forces exhibition at Yad La-Shiryon, Yom Ha'atzmaut 2012.

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[edit]

The Chief Rabbinate has declared Yom Ha'atzmaut a Jewish holiday on which Hallel, with blessings, is recited, along with the pesukei dezimrah of Holidays and Sabbaths. 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, leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America, questioned the Halachic imperative in canonising these changes (it is not clear what his personal practice was – some of his students claim that he recited Hallel and some testify that he remained silent while the congregation recited Hallel). In any case, the majority of his students recite Hallel without the blessings.[4] Fringe groups of the Religious Zionist camp have promoted the inclusion of a version of Al Hanisim (for the miracles...) in the Amidah prayer.[5]

Some Hasidim are known to have recited Hallel, such as the previous Bohusher Rebbe.[citation needed] But most Haredim make no changes in their daily prayers. People affiliated to the Edah HaChareidis mourn the establishment of Israel on Yom Ha'atzmaut, 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.[6]

The Conservative Movement read the Torah portion of Deuteronomy 7:12–8:18, and include a version of Al Hanisim.[7] The Reform Movement suggests the inclusion of Ya'aleh V'yavo in the Amidah prayer. (Orthodoxy does not recognise the Reform or Conservative movements as representing normative Judaism).


Yom Ha'atzmaut is celebrated on the 5th day of Iyar (ה' באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day in which Israel 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 Yom Ha'atzmaut on a Shabbat.

Gregorian dates for Yom Ha'atzmaut:

  • 10 May 2011 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)
  • 26 April 2012 (Thursday, advanced one day to Iyar 4)
  • 16 April 2013 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)
  • 6 May 2014 (Tuesday, postponed one day to Iyar 6)

Arab Reactions and The Nakba[edit]

While some Arab citizens of Israel celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, others regard it as a tragic day in their history referred to as al-Nakba ("the catastrophe")[8][9]

“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.”[10]

On 23 March 2011, the Knesset approved, by a vote of 37 to 25,[11] 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.[12][13]

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)[14] 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." [15][16]

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.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oren, Michael B. "Ben-Gurion and the Return to Jewish Power." New Essays on Zionism. Ed. Hazony, et al. Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2006. 406. PDF.
  2. ^ "Israel Ministry of foreign Affairs: Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel: 14 May 1948". Mfa.gov.il. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  3. ^ United states de facto Regnition of State of Israel: 14 May 1948: Retrieved 9 April 2012
  4. ^ Rabbi Moshe Meiselman Commitment
  5. ^ This segment includes Rav David Bar Hayim of the Hardal camp who heads Machon Shilo Institute, (Machon Shilo Al HaNisim for Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalyim), and The Temple Institute, as well as Avi Shmidman and Ben-Tzion Spitz (Shmidman Al HaNissim).
  6. ^ Mishpacha Magazine, "Zealots and Zionism", Moishe Guttman. 14 March 2007
  7. ^ Lucas, Lucas. "Yom Ha-atzmaut: Laws & Customs". Jewish Law. The Rabbinical Assembly. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Maariv article (in Hebrew).
  9. ^ 'How does an Arab-Israeli school confront independence day?' EETTA PRINCE-GIBSON, 26 APRIL 2012
  10. ^ 'The Nakba Hoax in Retrospect' Isi Leibler, May 25th, 2012
  11. ^ Knesset Approves Nakba Law, by Elad Benari, 23 March 2011
  12. ^ Elia Zureik (2011). Elia Zureik, David Lyon, Yasmeen Abu-Laban, ed. Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine: Population, Territory and Power (Illustrated ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 17. ISBN 0-415-58861-8. 
  13. ^ "MK Zahalka: Racist laws target Arab sector" by Roni Sofer, 22 March 2011
  14. ^ "Israel’s Supreme Court rejects Nakba Law suit " by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 5th, 2012
  15. ^ "Erasing the Nakba" by Neve Gordon, Last Modified: 17 May 2012 06:46
  16. ^ a b "Israel’s Supreme Court rejects Nakba Law suit " by The Global News Service of the Jewish People, January 5th, 2012

External links[edit]