Israel at 71 – Who Would Believe, Who Could Imagine?

Israel at 71 – Who Would Believe, Who Could Imagine?

On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, Israelis celebrated 71 years since the state was founded.

Beginning with sunset, it was obvious to visitors that this was no ordinary day. At Mamilla Mall, shops were closed and restaurants were closing early on Wednesday.

Jerusalem memorial for remembrance day in Mamilla Mall

The Yizkor, Remembrance Day memorial with its floral wreath was displayed near the entrance.

Independence Day sign in Hebrew near Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Israel

By the walls of the Old City near Jaffa Gate, a large sign said ‘Happy Independence Day! 71.’

View of Tower of David in Jerusalem Israel from across the street near Teddy Park

The Tower of David stood tall against the blue sky, with the setting sun reflecting gold hues upon its stones.

Jerusalem Israel Tower of David free on Independence Day

On Yom Ha’aztmaut there was free admittance to the Tower of David, as well as to other attractions.

Entrance sign for Teddy Park in Jerusalem Israel

Across the road, there were big signs marking the entrance to Teddy Park.

Only one problem–for security reasons, no one was allowed to enter at this entrance.

Going around to the other entrance, I saw that hundreds had already arrived.

Men davening mincha in Teddy Park

A group of men had gathered for afternoon prayers. From Teddy Park, knowing which direction to face when you pray is easy. Jews pray towards Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and have done so for millennia.

Crowd in Teddy Park for Independence Day celebration at night in Jerusalem

Slow singing started at 6:00 pm. Though it was an unusually cold night for spring, thousands arrived and filled the park.

The music turned to loud and joyous as celebrations for Yom Haatzmaut began at dark.

Teddy Park was only one of many places in Jerusalem with free public music.

The list is too long for now, as neighborhoods gathered to celebrate with music and fireworks.

Jerusalem Israel celebrating Independence Day

At First Station there was a musical prayer service

First Station Yom Haatzmaut Prayer service led by Shlomo Katz

led by Rabbi Sholom Katz, and it was well attended again this year.

Independence Day 71 Israel in Jerusalem at night

It was hard to get a good photo of such a large crowd.

But this short video should give you an idea of the energy.

Scene from Yom Haazmaut at Har Herzl show

The main state event is held on Har Herzl and is televised.

Har Herzl for Israeli Independence Day 71

Tickets are in big demand for the open theater and stage near Herzl’s grave.

Israel Independence Day show at Har Herzl with Yuli Edelstein

The event was held under the offices of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev.

Israel Independence day at Mount Herzl

Military colors play a major part of the program, and IDF, Fire and Police participated.

Two female Israelis in military dress uniform at Har Herzl


To take close up photographs of so many soldiers,

Army colors at Har Herzl Yom Haaztmaut

or photos from a distance is an annual dilemma.

Israel Independence Day 71

This event might be better appreciated watching at home on TV.

The outdoor mountain setting can also be very cold and windy.

Look at screen on the upper left side of the photo, you will see that these marchers form a menorah.

Israeli army in formation for Independence Day show in tV

Special this year, at the base of the menorah were these soldiers in wheelchairs.

Yom Haatzmaut official opening ceremony

The program has musical numbers with fireworks.

The popular Shalva Band performed during the program.

The program also included 12 torches representing the 12 Tribes, lit by 16 individuals who had overcome difficulties, all representing the “Spirit of Israel.”

People celebrating Independence Day in Jerusalem

But in spite of staying up late celebrating, tens of thousands of Israelis were off to parks during the day.

In Jerusalem, there may be fewer hikers, but there are a whole lot of grills in the parks.

This year was the first time in long time I was not in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, for Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Highway outside of Modiin on Independence Day

Riding on Israeli highways, like this one toward Modi’in, is a time to remember the old Route 1, with its single lanes winding through the Jerusalem hills.

View of Modiin, Israel, new city built

The municipality of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut developed from nothing but barren land, and is now a thriving and growing city of over 90,000 residents.

Then Yom Ha’atzmaut, with all its grilled food, concludes with the Israel Prize ceremony.

Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

A day which began with military honors at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, and a Bible contest for teenagers at the Jerusalem Theater, comes to an end with Israel honoring its citizens who have contributed to various fields of knowledge or a lifetime of service for the public good.

Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

Miri and Chaim Ehrental started Zichron Menahem after their son died of cancer.  It is an organization which has helped thousands of families cope with cancer.

Winners of Israel Prize on Independence Day 71

The laureates who accomplished so much in their fields bring honor to themselves and all Israelis.

As President Rivlin said in his Yom Haatamaut greeting, “Dear friends at home here in Israel and around the world. Happy Independence Day! Chag Sameach!  Israel is seventy-one years old. Who would have believed seventy-one years ago that we would build cities from the swamps? That roads and railways would cross the sands?  Who could have imagined then the wonder that is the State of Israel?”

Who would have believed, who could have imagined?

Israel at 71!

Best of Independence Day Israel at 70

Best of Independence Day Israel at 70

Celebrations for Israel at 70 started early and keep going.  In Jerusalem, blue and white flags will be flying until after Yom Yerushalayim  on May 13.

Before the best of Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, one has to experience Yom HaZikaron, the day to remember fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

Military memorial in Jerusalem Israel cemetery Har Herzl

As Yom HaZikaron came to a close, a soldier sat quietly on the new memorial in Har Herzl military cemetery. During the day thousands of people visited graves on Har Herzl and official ceremonies were held.

Inside new military memorial at Har Herzl on Remembrance Day

Inside, the memorial wreaths and flags were on display from ceremonies earlier in the day.

Yizkor Yisrael on Har Herzl for Yom Haatzmaut State televised opening show

The official opening state event for Yom Haatzmaut  is held each year near the top of Har Herzl, near Herzl’s grave, and also begins with Yizkor, remembering.

Yom Haatzmaut Druze leaders at Har Herzl

This year one of the twelve honorees to light the torches in the ceremony was a leader of Israel’s Druze community. His fellow Druze leaders came early and had seats in a prime location.

Yizkor on Har Herzl for Yom Haatzmaut

As darkness fell, the word Yizkor was screened on this large fabric pillar. As the prayer was recited images were projected onto it.

Opening on stage for Independence Day at Har Herzl

But then the mourning turned to celebrating. The pillar went up and the music and singing began.

Performance for Independence Day Israel 70 at Har Herzl

The stage was huge. The entire show was televised, and multiple cameras highlighted the elaborate setups for production numbers involving hundreds of performers, choirs, with children dancing and singing along with adult actors. Here a tower is almost in position. A man waving an Israeli flag will stand there for part of the act.

Israel 70 show at Har Herzl Yom Haatzmaut

The press platform had not only the pillar in front of it blocking the view, but then a house was put up as well.  However, the fireworks, even thought partially obscured from view, were still impressive.

Netta Baraziali singing at show on Independence Day on Mount Herzl

Netta Barzilai is the new Israeli singing sensation who is to perform the song “Toy” soon in the Eurovision song competition. She appeared in the midst of what looked like a field.   One advantage of being close to the stage was being able to see the stage hands dressed in black on each side of her as she sings, getting ready to move off stage.

Netta Barzilai on Independence day at Mount Herzle

The workers cleared the props from previous acts which depicted the past 70 years of Israeli history. When Netta finished her number, security whisked her away through the audience.

Audience bracelets and flags on Independence Day Israel 70

The hard-to-get-invitation-only audience received flags and special light bracelets when they entered the stadium, through many levels of security.

Fire for Independence Day at Har Herzl

As usual there was fire in one act. However, as impressive as it was at stage level, it was meant for TV viewers.

Fire as seen on TV and large screen from Har Herzl Independence Day Israeli 70

Overhead cameras captured the image of the flames. The menorah, the seven-branched candelabra, was shown on huge screens near some of the choirs above the stage.

Ceremony for lighting torches on Independence Day

The ambitious entertainment was followed by the lighting of 12 torches by honored Israelis, one for each tribe of Israel.  The event is led by the Speaker of Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, who delivered the opening speech and lit the first torch.

Torch lighters on Har Herzl

The event went later than usual, and it would take too long to include more details.  Here is view of stage to give you an idea of its size. See if you can find the Prime Minister speaking at his podium.

Shlomo Artzi to light flame for ceremony opening Independence Day on Mount Herzl

One of the honorees was singer Shlomo Artzi, and each honoree had their turn to be featured in short video.

After torch lighting, military marching with flags

The show ended with traditional military colors and presentation.

New this year, 300 drones provided a light display, and was video worthy, as you can see.

If you need even more photos from Yom Haatzmaut, check HERE

But that was just at night. Walking home from Har Herzl, the smell of smoke from the grills was already strong in Jerusalem’s parks.

String Bridge with flags for Yom Haatzmaut

There was still an entire day with special prayers in some synagogues, more mangals, BBQs, parties, celebrations, music and of course flags of all sizes.

Israeli flags on old vehicles along Route #1 to Jerusalem for Yom Haatzmaut

These old armored cars along Route #1 which broke through the siege in 1948 were decorated with Israeli flags for Israel at 70.

Route One Jerusalem, Israel bridge for animals to cross highway

Route #1 is nothing like the old two-lane “highway” on which vehicles slowly chugged their winding way up to Jerusalem. Yes, it took years to finish. But today there is a real six-lane highway, with a nature overpass designed for animal safety and conservation.

Jerusalem Tel Aviv fast train track

Ancient Roman aqueducts in the distance? No. The overpass waiting and ready for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem fast train to run. So much has been accomplished in 70 years, in spite of what seems as never-ending conflict.

The annual International Bible Competition held at the Jerusalem Theater is a must for Yom Haatzmaut morning TV viewing for many Israelis.

The holiday ends with the Israel Prize Awards in the evening, another TV viewing opportunity.

Since this post is called the best of this Yom Haatzmaut, I cannot end without mentioning some special moments. Twelve Israelis are honored each year for accomplishments in various fields, from physics to music and more.

Israel Prize 2018 stage at International Conference Centet

One of the twelve honorees responds in the name of all twelve honorees after they receive their awards from the Education Minister in presence of the Israeli President, Prime Minister, and other dignitaries.

This year Miriam Peretz was chosen to speak, and she received more than one standing ovation. This mother who had two sons fall in Israeli wars, has become a national icon and an inspiration.

Naftali Bennett gets hug from Miriam Peretz at Israel Prize Award Ceremony

Not only her words, but also her hugs brought tears to most eyes. Ending her talk with the message “we are one nation and we have to work together in good times as well as bad,” she hugged Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Then she proceeded to hug all the awardees, who included Natan Sharansky and writer David Grossman.  Grossman may have different political views, but like Peretz, he also lost a son in combat.

More photos from Israel Prize see HERE

Hugs. Tears. Mourning. Party. And of course fireworks.

#Israel70, not just a one day celebration, this year it is still going.