Every year Israel Independence day is celebrated on the 5th day of the month of Iyar, which was the Hebrew date when on May 14, 1948 the modern state of Israel was proclaimed through an act of the United Nations.
Israel’s significance for Jews around the world today is larger than a one day celebration. As we look back on the past 63 years, it is clear that the existence of the State of Israel has given new meaning to how we think about the core value of Jewish peoplehood; Israel has made real once again the connection between Jews and a historical homeland. Moreover, it intersects with our lives in so many ways that we thought it appropriate to think of Israel Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, like other Jewish holidays, like a chag. As we know, some of our favorite holidays and festivals, chagim, take place over a number of days and are planted within calendar periods that have specific themes. So instead of Yom Ha-atzmaut, the Day of Independence, we celebrate Chag Ha’atzmaut, the Festival of Independence.
Yom Ha’atzmaut, comes a short time after Passover and nine days after Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. We have put together a list of nine family activities, for home and synagogue, which could take place during this time period.
The theme for all these activities is drawn from the words of Hatikvah (The Hope), Israel’s national anthem, which has become an anthem for Jews worldwide. In fact, one of the suggested activities below is to become more familiar with the words and music of this song.
At the end of Ha-Tikvah, we sing these words:
Our hope has not been lost
The hope of two-thousand years
To be free people in our land
From these words we draw the theme for our celebration of Chag Ha-atzmaut. Each of the suggested activities will help us explore in different combinations:
What does it mean to be free?
What does it mean to be a people?
What does it mean to have a land we can call our own?
What does it mean to be a “free people in our land”?