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Yom HaAtzmaut History & Customs

Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. It is observed on or near the fifth of the Hebrew month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in April. It is preceded by Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day).

On May 14, 1948, soon-to-be Prime Minister David Ben Gurion issued a declaration of the State of Israel. It was recognized by the United States, the Soviet Union, and other countries, though not by the surrounding Arab states.

The festivities begin the evening before, when Israelis take to streets across the country to attend outdoor concerts, parties and barbecues, as well to watch fireworks displays. Friends and families gather together the next day, usually outside or at nature reserves, museums and other attractions, which remain open to the public free of charge. Also on Yom HaAtzmaut, teens compete in the country’s Torah championship, and the Israel Prize, the country’s highest honor, is awarded in a formal ceremony in Jerusalem to individuals who excel in their chosen field.

On the evening of the holiday, celebrants and officials gather at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem. A ceremony with speeches and a parade of soldiers concludes with the lighting of twelve torches, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel.

To celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut:

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