(David Cohen/Flash90)
Yom Ha'Atzmaut

You don’t have to be in Israel to celebrate with music, prayer and a barbecue.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This coming Wednesday night and Thursday is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day! I am going to share with you how Yom Ha’atzmaut is observed in Israel and how you can observe it even if you’re not in Israel.

No one, however, should pass the day without some form of celebration!

On the night of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Yom Ha’atzmaut follows the Jewish calendar in which all holidays begin the night before and continue the next day until sunset) every city in Israel hosts different types of indoor and outdoor entertainment. The most prominent of them are the outdoor concerts. All the biggest names in Israeli music are hired out somewhere in the country on Yom Ha’atzmaut night.

In the religious neighborhoods it is the more religious singers and their songs while in the more secular neighborhoods it is music tailored to the taste of the neighborhood. The concerts begin promptly at dark and continue to the wee hours in the morning.

I’m very lucky because the live Yom Ha’atzmaut concert in my neighborhood is held within walking distance of my home, so I don’t need to worry about parking (which can be a nightmare). If you can’t get to a concert then at least play (read: blast) Israeli songs all night long!

The next item on the list, perhaps more popular than the first, is the Yom Ha’atzmaut day barbecue. That’s right, we are a country of 8 million people which means there are about 8 million barbecues going on! Well, you know what I mean. The barbecue atmosphere is unbelievably tremendous.

Many families camp out the night before to ensure that they get their preferred spot for their Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecue, whether it be on a beach, hilltop, or forest. And those who don’t camp out are busy scavenging the ideal barbecue spot from early in the morning. The radio repeatedly makes announcements such as “nobody attempt to enter the XXX forest…there is absolutely no more room” and “the Ashdod beach is closed to new arrivals…there is absolutely no more room.”

Indeed, pilots flying into Ben Gurion airport on Yom Ha’atzmaut have been known to comment and question the tremendous amount of smoke in the air. There is no question that Yom Ha’atzmaut is a barbecue heaven. Be sure to do something reminiscent of a barbecue on this day!

God and prayer should also be a component of your Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. We are required to give thanks to God for the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy with the return of the Jewish people to their homeland.

Many orthodox Jews recite the “Hallel” on Yom Ha’atzmaut which are a select number of psalms recited on major holidays thanking God for the miracles that He performs for us. Many synagogues make the services over the course of Yom Ha’atzmaut very festive, including musical instruments or dancing as part of the service. We must never forget that our only right to this land comes from God and the Torah!

Other things you can do on Yom Ha’atzmaut, especially if you’re not in Israel, is to speak Hebrew! Practicing your Hebrew is a great way to feel a connection with the people and the land. You can also hang an Israeli flag outside your home and show your pride for the Jewish state.

There’s nothing that’s not online these days, so be sure to get yourself a virtual tour of Israel. Whether you want to see Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the North, today’s videos and documentaries will have you feeling as if you’re in Israel.

Lastly, get together with friends! Whether it is a part of a barbecue or some other context, nobody should celebrate Yom Ha’atzamut alone. Be sure to celebrate with others. Indeed, a glass of wine (made in Israel if possible) or other “l’chaim” in honor of the day is always better with friends.

Most importantly, enjoy the day and reflect on its significance. Chag Sameach!