If you're walking
on the streets of Jerusalem and a kid bops you on the head
with one of those annoying plastic hammers, it's probably
YOM HA'ATZMAUT, Israel's Independence Day. If it isn't,
grab the hammer and remove the yellow and green plastic ends.
Tell the kid it's in the name of recycling.
takes place on the 5th of the Hebrew month Iyar, and
usually falls at the end of April or beginning of May. It
marks the day in 1948 that Israel's first prime minister,
David Ben-Gurion, declared the country's independence at a
Tel Aviv gathering.
Less than 24 hours
after that announcement, the neighboring Arab countries declared
war on Israel. The Jewish state survived, but the bloody battle
cost many soldiers in the ragtag army their lives.
is significant to virtually all Jews. Secular Jews in Israel
mark the importance of an independent Jewish state, while
most religious Jews commemorate the establishment of the state
as another step in the ultimate redemption, the coming of
the Messiah. The celebration overrides the religious prohibition
against listening to music during the counting of the Omer
between Passover and Shavout.
There is, however,
a small minority of Jews who do not celebrate YOM HA'ATZMAUT
at all. Known in Israel as Charedim, or Ultra-Orthodox
Jews, these Jews believe that the modern State of Israel was
established prematurely without God's blessing. As a result,
they refrain as much as possible from matters of the state.
For everyone else
in Israel, the national holiday is a welcome day off. Businesses
and schools close. Most people take a field trip or go on
a picnic, while some just relax. Religious Jews add extra
prayers into the services.
If 5 Iyar falls
out on a Friday or Shabbat, YOM HA'ATZMAUT is moved
up to a Thursday, to prevent any celebrations leading to desecration
of the Sabbath. But that still won't prevent you from getting