Yom Ha'atzmaut

Most of the Jewish communities in the Western world have incorporated this modern holiday to celebrate Israel's independence on the fifth of Iyar, but sometimes moved slightly due to Shabbat.

Yom HaAtzma'ut in Israel is always preceded by Yom Hazikaron — Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers. The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence-and the very existence of the state to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.

The official "switch" from Yom Hazikaron to Yom HaAtzma'ut takes place a few minutes after sundown, with a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem in which the flag is raised from half staff (due to Memorial Day) to the top of the pole. The president of Israel delivers a speech of congratulations, and soldiers representing the army, navy, and air force parade with their flags. The evening parade is followed by a torch lighting ceremony, which marks the country's achievements in all spheres of life.

For North American Jews, celebrating Yom HaAtzma'ut has been a way to express solidarity with the state of Israel and to strengthen their alliance with it. In many communities, it is one of few occasions in which Jewish organizations and synagogues of different ideologies and denominations co-operate in forming a common celebration. In many North American congregations, the joint public celebration often is augmented by a religious service. In some cases, this would occur on the Shabbat closest to Yom HaAtzma'ut and would consist of additional readings added to the service and, usually, the singing of the Israeli national anthem.

There is not yet an accepted "tradition" of how to celebrate this holiday, and only time will tell whether certain customs, foods, prayers, and melodies will be linked in the Jewish mind as with holidays that emerged many centuries before Yom HaAtzma'ut. For Jews around the world, joining with Israelis celebrating Yom HaAtzma'ut has become a concrete link in the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.

Source: Bard, Mitchell G. Jewish Holidays, Yom Hashoah 1998