Dispatches from an American in Israel: Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day)

Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day)
The sun has set on Israel’s 60th Independence Day celebrations, but my ears are still ringing from the fireworks shows last night – and my belly is still stuffed from the barbeques today.

Last night, at 8 p.m. Israel officially said goodbye to Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and kicked off the start of the 60th Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) in grand fashion. Every municipality across the country hosted multiple fire works shows – in fact, from my rooftop balcony, I was able to catch at least 4 different displays from neighboring towns.

The rest of the night was like one big traveling band: Israel’s favorite pop artists from today and yesteryear headed out on their annual one-night-only tour. Popular singers like Danny Sanderson and Gidi Gov knocked out 30-minute sets and then quickly moved on to the next city – which I guess is one of the advantages of being a super star in a country where 80 percent of the population lives within 2.5 hours or each other.

Today, every single soul in Israel celebrated independence in precisely the same fashion: With a barbeque. Not the most vegetarian-friendly holiday, Yom HaAtzmaut is universally celebrated over a plate of charred skewers. (My barbeque host ironically called today “The Festival of Beef”.) While many patriots prefer elbowing with their fellow countrymen for space at one the country’s national parks, I took the cushier route and accepted an invitation to a cookout in someone’s backyard.

Earlier in the day, there were parades and more concerts – and even a fun local exhibition of the Tank Corps. Soldiers let kids clamor up to the top of their armored vehicles and demonstrated krav magah techniques.

Whether you’re a die-hard patriot or not, the 60th Yom HaAtzmaut was undoubtedly a moving day – filled with the comraderie that comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself. That, and eating too many hotdogs.

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