Celebrating Israel’s Independence on Yom Ha’Atzmaut

May 1st 2017

As the sadness of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) comes to an end, the joyous celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut erupts. Israel declared independence on May 15th, 1948, eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine was due to expire. This year Yom Ha’Atzmaut is celebrated Monday evening May 1st – Tuesday, May 2nd. According to the Hebrew calendar, the day begins at sundown of the previous day.

Azrieli Center Tel-Aviv with flags


Yom Ha’Atzmaut eve: Yom Ha’Atzmaut’s official opening ceremony is held on Mt Herzl, with a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), artistic performances, group dances with the flag of Israel forming intricate designs like a Star of David or Menorah, and the ceremonial lighting of twelve torches—one for each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. These torches are lit by individuals who made a significant social contribution to Israel. Communities throughout Israel hold outdoor performances beginning with a broadcast of the Mount Herzl ceremony followed by presentations by local youth groups, singers and dancers, leading Israeli singers, and fireworks displays. These celebrations last long into the night, with people singing and dancing in the streets.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut day

Official observances include a reception at the home of Israel’s President honoring excellence in 120 IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers, the International Bible Contest in Jerusalem, and the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem. The IDF opens some of its bases to the public, and there is a fly-over the country by the Israeli Air Force. As this is a national holiday, schools and many businesses are closed. Israelis take advantage of the day off to picnic in the many national parks, or on the beach, and the aroma of meat cooking on a mangal (barbecue) can be smelled throughout the country.

Keep in mind that with all the celebrations going on, the traffic situation will be more congested than usual. There will be street closures in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, so you may be better off leaving your car in its spot and taking public transportation.