Yom Haatzmaut is Israeli Independence Day, a day of great celebration held every year in late April or early May – on the day (in the Hebrew calendar) which, in 1948, Israel declared its independence. Across Israel, events and celebrations take place to mark Independence – both on a national scale and on a more local scale, with almost every city, town, and village, having some sort of celebration. In 2019, Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) falls from sundown on May 4, to sundown on May 5.
Yom Haatzmaut takes place on the eve of Yom Haatzmaut at Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Ceremony in Jerusalem. This event marks the end of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s memorial day, which falls immediately before), and the beginning of the celebration for Yom Haatzmaut. The ceremony involves performances, speeches, and a ceremonial lighting of twelve torches which symbolizes the Twelve Tribes of Israel by twelve citizens who have made a great impact on the country. At the same time, towns and cities across the country have parties and firework displays.
The following day, parades and events take place across Israel including military fly-pasts (see the schedule for the Independence Day Fly Over), parades, a famous International Bible Competition, and the ceremony for the Israel Prize which is Israel’s highest award and honor. The Israel Prize is given each year to about 10-15 people in the presence of the presence of the President, Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the Supreme Court president.
Yom Haatzmaut is a real family day, and Israelis flock to Israel’s National Parks, hiking trails, and beauty spots, for barbecues and picnics.
Yom Hazikaron is Israel’s Official Memorial Day for her fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Falling either in late April or early May every year, Yom Hazikaron is an especially solemn time and marked by ceremonies and silences across the country.
It starts at sundown on May 3 2022 and is marked until sundown May 4 2022, and is followed immediately by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.
Yom Hazikaron begins at sundown (8.00pm) when a siren is sounded across the country for one minute. Everybody stops what they are doing, including cars driving on the highway, and observes the silence to show their respect and remember the fallen. That evening, the official State Ceremony to mark the start of Yom Hazikaron takes place at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem. Unlike in many other countries, Israel’s wars have taken place at home and being a small country, almost everybody knows somebody who died in the country’s wars making Yom Hazikaron an incredibly personal time of remembrance.
The following day, a siren sounds for two minutes, at 11.00 am and again the country stops to remember. Following this, memorial ceremonies take place across the country – either public or private, to remember the country’s fallen. That evening, between 7 and 8.00 pm, another state ceremony takes place, this one at Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Military Ceremony. This ceremony marks the end of Yom Hazikaron, and the beginning of Yom Haaztmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, a day which contrasts dramatically to what preceded it and a strong reminder of the price Israel has paid, and continues to pay for her independence.
There are many ceremonies you can join for Yom Hazikaron, at the Western Wall there is an annual ceremony for the Memorial Day opening where the the flag is lowered to half-mast.