As the sun sets and the many solemn Yom Hazikaron observances come to an end,
the varied and diverse celebrations of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, begin.
In some communities, the holiday begins in the synagogue with
with a special evening thanksgiving service, as this one in Rabbi Benny Lau’s Ramban synagogue.
Beginning at nightfall, stores and businesses close.
The mangals, BBQs and charcoal have been hard to miss this week,
because as early as sunrise people are out looking for a good spot
to start grilling.
There were so many people headed to nature trails that the list of parks
that were closed for lack of space got longer as the day went on.
But in the center of Jerusalem, as usual, it was Gan Sacher, Sacher Park,
where thousands of families and groups gathered-
some camping out from the night before,
others arriving early to get the perfect place,
and a few lucky ones succeeding to find both privacy and shade.
There were blue and white flags,
lots of blue and white flags,
new and improved plastic hammers,
and tee shirts,
lots of tee shirts.
Three helicopters flew over in formation.
followed by five F-16 fighter planes,
but it was the huge El Al jets that got the most attention.
Smoke filled the sky and cars were everywhere they could find a spot, legal or not, until late at night.
A day which started with the televised International Bible Quiz competition,
ended with the televised presentation of Israel Prize Honors.
Getting through the layers of security to sit in the audience took time, patience and a special ticket.
Certainly not the ‘real streets’ in the International Conference Center
with government leaders at the dais waiting to congratulate the 10 distinguished honorees…
but what a way to celebrate Israel at 63.
Happy Independence Day!