Contributed by CAMERA intern Aaron Hunt.
Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which occurs on the anniversary of 5 Iyar (May 14), 1948, when David Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s independence. This year, the fifth of Iyar falls on a Friday, so Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated today to avoid conflicting with Shabbat.
In Israel, today is a day of barbeques, military exhibits, official ceremonies, fireworks, and large celebrations from the Golan to Eilat, Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The festivities began with an official ceremony last night on Har Herzl in Jerusalem marking the end of Yom Hazikaron and the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut. After the ceremony, which featured performances, speeches, and the lighting of twelve torches by twelve Israelis honored for their contributions to society.
Israel’s transition from mourning one day to celebrations the next is always difficult, but this year’s switch is especially poignant, since yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron was the first since Operation Protective Edge last summer, during which 67 IDF soldiers died in the fight against Hamas. After an especially painful day of mourning, during which Israelis reflected on the price their country has had to pay defending its existence, they spent today celebrating 67 years of independence.
Through 67 years of threats to its very survival, from invasion by larger neighbors to terrorism from Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and beyond, Israel has stood strong and achieved economic, technological, and societal successes beyond what seemed possible. Today, in Israel and around the world, is a celebration of what a small but tenacious and courageous state can achieve in the face of monumental challenges.