Yom Ha'atzmaut

Ben Gurion declaring Israel's Independence in 1948

Ben Gurion declaring Israel's Independence in 1948

Held on the fifth day of the Hebrew calendar month of Iyar, Yom Ha'atzmaut is a modern holiday celebrating Israel's independence in 1948.  Israeli Independence Day is always immediately preceeded by Yom Hazikaron - Memorial Day for the Fallen Israeli Soldiers. 

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 with this holiday, as with holidays that emerged many centuries before Yom Ha'atzmaut. 
For Jews around the world, joining with Israelis 
celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut has become a 
concrete link in the Jewish connection to 
the land of Israel.

 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 Ha'atzmaut and would consist of additional readings added to the service and, usually, the singing of Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem).

Yom Ha'zikaron was decreed by law in 1963, but the practice of commemorating the fallen on this day started in 1951 to mark the connection between Independence Day and the people who died to achieve and maintain this independence.Independence Day) by one day. The day is dedicated to commemorating the country's soldiers and members of security forces, the memory of the fallen from the pre-state undergrounds, and to victims of terrorism.

The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) radio station Galey Tzahal found a creative way to remember some of the fallen. Twelve years ago, as part of the commemorations on Yom Ha'zikaron, the radio station initiated a musical project named "Soon We Will Become a Song" (Od me'at nahafoch le'shir) in which prominent Israeli musicians volunteer to write scores for and perform songs written by soldiers who fell in the line of duty. Read More


The title of the Israeli national anthem is Hatikvah, which means “The Hope” in Hebrew.

When Hatikva is sung together, we are making a promise that we will never forget the undying Jewish hope for independence and that we will do all within our power to help the State of Israel prosper.

As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Kol ode balevav P'nimah -
Nefesh Yehudi homiyah
Ulfa'atey mizrach kadimah
Ayin l'tzion tzofiyah.
Ode lo avdah tikvatenu
Hatikvah bat shnot alpayim:
L'hiyot am chofshi b'artzenu -
Eretz Tzion v'Yerushalayim.


Laws & Customs

A specific formal liturgy for its commemoration has not yet been established. Some prayer books, including Siddur Sim Shalom, incorporate a new Al Ha-nissim prayer modeled on the versions recited at Hanukkah and on Purim into the Amidah and the Grace after Meals. Some congregations also recite the full version of Hallel. Further, some synagogues call three people to the Torah to read a special passage about God’s protection of Israel in the Promised Land, Deuteronomy 7:12–8:18. In such synagogues, the third aliyah is considered the maftir reading and is then followed by a haftarah, Isaiah 10:32–12:6 (the same as for the eighth day of Passover), which deals with God’s promises of national redemption. It is also customary to recite the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel that appears in most prayerbooks.

Yom Ha'zikkaron, Memorial Day,  is dedicated to the memory of all those who have died in defense of the State of Israel since 1948 and of the Jewish yishuv in pre-state days. As on Yom Ha'shoah, there is no special liturgy for this day. It is appropriate to add special prayers to the service and to recite the El Malei Rahamim memorial prayer in memory of those who have died in defense of Israel. Many congregations recite Kaddish in memory of the fallen. A memorial candle may also be lit at home or in the synagogue, or in both places. In Israel, an air raid siren is sounded early in the morning of Yom Ha'zikkaron, as the entire country pauses to observe a national moment of mourning. Observing a similar moment of silence in sympathy with the citizens of Israel is also an appropriate gesture for Jews in the Diaspora.

When the fifth of Iyyar falls on Friday or Saturday, Yom Ha'atzmaut is observed on the previous Thursday. When it falls on a Monday, it is observed on the following Tuesday. This is done so that the festivities do not fall just before, on, or just after Shabbat. And a Monday Yom Ha'atzmaut would make Yom Ha'zikkaron fall just after Shabbat.


Source: Rabbinicalassembly.org