Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmut
Yom Ha’atzmut is the Hebrew word for the celebration of Israel’s independence, which happened in 1948. This festival is of great importance to the Jewish calendar, but it is not considered to be a religious holiday. It is only considered to be a formal holiday in Israel (where almost everyone has a day off to honour it), but that doesn't stop people from celebrating it around the world.
Because Yom Ha’atzmut is a modern holiday, there is no official way to celebrate. Several customs have grown in popularity over the years though, so you can just take part in any way that appeals to you. If you think patriotic, you won’t go far wrong!
Six ways to celebrate
Here are a few ideas on how you can celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, even if it’s just in your local park or backyard:
1. Prepare a picnic or BBQ. This is a great way to bring friends and family together, and sharing food simply adds to the celebration. Typical recipes for a Yom Ha’atzmaut picnic menu might include these healthy ideas:
Sponge cake (decorated with blue and white icing to celebrate Israel’s national colours!)
Baked apple cinnamon doughnuts
2. Make decorations. Everyone can get involved in this activity, which can be as simple or ornate as you’d like. Whatever you choose will add some patriotic blue and white to your festivities. Here are some ideas to get you inspired:
Israeli paper flags
What you’ll need:
- White and blue sheets of paper (any size you like as long as both colours are the same size)
- A glue stick
- Scissors (optional)
- A gold glitter pen or permanent marker
- Tear or cut the blue paper horizontally into thick strips.
- Glue two strips of blue paper to the top and bottom of a sheet of white paper. Tear (or cut six) more smaller strips out of the blue paper.
- Glue them into a Star of David shape at the centre of the white paper.
- Use the gold marker or glue pen to enhance the flag by drawing along the horizontal blue strips and the star.
- Depending on the size of your flag, you can either use string or sticky adhesive to attach the flags to walls or windows or you can even decorate trees if your celebration takes place outside.
Patriotic paper chains
What you’ll need:
- White and blue sheets of paper (small sheets, such as A5 size, are best for this)
- A glue stick
- Blue, silver or gold glitter (optional)
- Cut the paper into strips of equal thickness.
- Paste glue over the one side of each strip and sprinkle the glitter so it sticks (this bit is optional, but can be applied to all, or just a handful of strips, depending on how glitzy you want to be!)
- Put a blob of glue on one end of a strip and curl the other end around to form a ring shape. Stick both ends together to secure the ring.
- Take another strip, glue one end, and interlink this strip through the first ring before securing it into another ring.
- Continue this process, forming long garlands of blue and white rings that can be wrapped around trees and draped across picnic tables.
3. Light fireworks. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate or costly display, but fireworks can be an exciting and colourful way to celebrate this lively festival. If you have the luxury of being able to choose colours for the display, try and include the colour blue to make it as patriotic as possible!
4. Play games. Any of your favourite games would be fine, as long as they’re inclusive for all age groups. You could see how much your friends and family know about their beloved State of Israel by having them take this Trivia Quiz. The winner could even receive a prize.
5. Play Israeli music and dance. Yom Ha’atzmaut is all about rejoicing your love for Israel, so why not crank up your favourite traditional or modern Israeli tunes and dance the night away? And when things start to wind down, make sure to end the evening by using our songbook to sing Hatikva, the national anthem of Israel.
6. Network. If you’re media savvy, then one really easy way to show all your friends and family that you’re celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut is to post it on social media using the #YomHaatzmaut hashtag. Swap your usual Facebook profile picture with an Israeli flag or Tweet a post wishing everyone a happy Israeli Independence Day!
More ideas and resources
If you’re interested in more information about Yom Ha’atzmaut, you can find lots of resources online. Here are a few links to get you started:
- Yom Ha'atzmaut History & Customs at ReformJudaism.org
- Jewish Holidays: Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israeli Independence Day at Jewish Virtual Library
- Yom Ha’atzmaut: Israel Independence Day at My Jewish Learning
- Yom Ha'atzmaut Recipes and Crafts at Hebrew Podcasts
If you'd rather join in on some prearranged celebrations, just ask at your local synagogue or Jewish community centre (our directory of community centres can help you find one nearby). They will almost certainly be honouring the occasion, and it’s a great way to meet new people and join in the fun.
Whatever you decide to do, just remember that Yom Ha’atzmaut is all about having fun and celebrating the existence of the wonderful State of Israel. So get creative, let your hair down and have a great day!