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!

Jerusalem: Flags, Flames, Flyovers, Flowers and Finally Fireworks

Jerusalem: Flags, Flames, Flyovers, Flowers and Finally Fireworks

After the Passover holiday flags begin to appear on the Jerusalem, Israel, streets.

Flags for Israeli Independence Day

Flags on supermarket fences,

Israeli flags on private vehicle

and flags on all types of vehicles.

Israeli flag on gate of community center on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem

Flags large and small are displayed on community and public buildings.

Israel flag large on building

These new apartment buildings win for the longest flag I have seen this year.

Air stunt Israel Independence Day practice

The annual practice flights for Yom Haatzmaut, Independence Day, included a new stunt.

That fourth plane was not out of formation, but had turned upside down in a spin.

Airplanes practice for Israel Independent Day in Jerusalem

Look high above the Knesset building, in the clouds to see it coming back in formation.

However, this video clip of one maneuver should give you a better idea.

Helicopter before Israel Independence day

This is one helicopter circling over Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s house.

On Yom Ha’aztmaut the President hosts the first of a long day of events, and helicopters fly over at the opening.

Memorial flame outside Israel President's Residence

Outside of Beit Hanasi, besides the flags there is a memorial flame.

Before the festivities of Yom Ha’atzmaut,  Yom HaZikaron, Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism is commemorated.

A siren is sounded for one minute at 8:00 pm and another at 11:00 this morning.

Shops were closed last night. Jerusalem streets were quiet.

Memorial services were held at the Kotel, Western Wall, with President Rivlin, while hundreds of smaller solemn gatherings were held in Jerusalem.

Most Israeli cities have their own military cemetery and memorial, but the largest is in Jerusalem.

Entrance to Har Herzl Military Cemetery

Extra flags were up after Passover at the entrance

Israeli flags on Mount Herzl

to the military cemetery on Har Herzl, where more flags were flying.

Israeli Ethiopian memorial in cemetery on Mount Herzl

There is a special memorial for Ethiopians who lost their lives.

Lone soldier graves on Mount Herzl Jerusalem Israel

A special section for lone soldiers is adorned with military souvenir flags.

The main section was being prepared immediately after Passover.

A shade from the sun and a small white plastic stool was placed by each grave.

I went early to get photos to share.

Cemetery on Mount Herzl close up of white stool for Yom HaZikaron

Today tens of thousands of people, from all over, will fill Har Herzl for Yom HaZikaron.

A photo without crowds of people would be impossible.

Jerusalem Israel military cemetery on Mount Herzl one grave of soldier who died 19 years old

Looking at the age here, I remembered being in the Beer Sheva Military Cemetery on Yom HaZikaron, in 2001, with a group of high school students after the March of Living trip to Poland.  What the teens noticed was how many of the stones had 19 as the age they died. A number so close to their age captured their attention.

On Yom HaZikaron, each grave will have a small flag and flower, as Israelis remember 23,741 fallen soldiers.

Memorial for victims of terror in Jerusalem

The 3,150 victims of terror are also remembered.

Pin for Yom HaZikaron with Red Everlasting flower Dam Hamaccabim flower

Since 1955, as on the traditional blue sticker for Yom HaZikaron, is the Dam HaMaccabim (Red Everlasting) flower.  The flower on a pin is new this year, part of the Dam HaMaccabim Project

“According to legend, every drop of blood of the Maccabees that fell to the ground was absorbed into the land, and from it sprung the beautiful flower with its blood-like red blossom…

The Israeli people have known so much bereavement over the years, and yet we are not a sad people…we have channeled our losses into a national culture of growth, of bringing forth new life…”

So again as the sun sets, the mood shifts.

Independence Day Jerusalem Israel street signs

Signs are up, ready for celebrating 71 years Israel Independence in Jerusalem.

Fireworks at Har Herzl for Israel Independence Day

Fireworks from Har Herzl will be seen over the Jerusalem streets as the festive celebrations begin.

A week of extreme highs and lows, joy and sadness, on the real Jerusalem streets.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembered in Jerusalem

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembered in Jerusalem

They tried to kill us. We are here.

The official Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day took place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Warsaw Ghetto Square of Yad Vashem, on Mount of Remembrance, near Har Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel. 

Holocaust Memorial IDF honor guard

The IDF honor guard posed for photographers before the ceremony.

Two women greeting at ceremony for Yom Hahsoah

For the invited guests it is a time to see and greet long time friends.

Group of German journalists for Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem Israel

This year a group of German journalists attended.

Holocaust memorial Israeli President Rivlin first speaker

After dark, the Israeli flag was lowered to half mast, and a ceremonial flame was lit.

Israeli President Rivlin at yad Vashem

President Reuven Rivlin was the first speaker.

Israeli Prime Minister at Yom Hashoan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke next.

There were musical interludes, and dramatic readings.

Six torches lit by survivors at Yad Vashem for Yom Hashoah

Before each one of the six survivors lit their torch, a short video about their lives was screened.

Each flame represents one million lost souls, murdered in Holocaust.

Honor guard at Holocaust Remembrance Day opening ceremony at Yad Vashem

Meanwhile, the honor guard stood at attention the entire time.

Netanyahu greeting honor guard

As last year, the Prime Minister went to shake hands with the soldiers in the honor guard.

Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem head of IDF speaking with Sara Netanyahu

As last year, while the event was being televised, movement was restricted. (Ok, I thought it was much better this year, maybe because there were fewer foreign photographers?) But as soon as the official program was over, I was able to go up front and take this photo. The honor guard was still at attention, but the rest of us were talking and heading home.

At Yad Vashem, the crowd stood still for HaTikvah.

HaTikvah, The Hope, takes on greater meaning when remembering the past.

The Jerusalem Municipality also marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a ceremony held in Kikar Safra, Safra Square, the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, city council members, survivors, attended the event, which was open to the public. This year the ceremonies were under the theme “War Within a War – the struggle for survival of Jews in the Holocaust.”

Zichron B’Salon, Memories in Living Room, hosted dozens of smaller, parlor meetings in Jerusalem on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In private homes throughout the city of Jerusalem survivors retold their stories in these more intimate groups and settings. President Reuven Rivlin hosted a group in Beit Hanasi on Sunday morning as he has done for the past several years.

Restaurants and entertainment venues were closed at night.

The next morning on May 2, a memorial siren sounded at 10:00 am.

A wreath laying ceremony was held at Yad Vashem.

Organizations, communities, schools, and businesses held programs, with survivors speaking.

The Knesset had a special recitation of names of Nazi victims.

Israel memorial day flame on Jerusalem synagogue

Flags on public buildings flew at half-mast and memorial flames were displayed.

Child survivors are aging.  We cannot change the past. Now that they have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they are celebrating.  The grandchildren and great-grandchildren are the future.  “This is our revenge,” I have heard over and over. They are celebrating life. We are here.

Light a torch at Yad Vashem for Yom HaShoah

So many stories. So many memories of tragedies and miracles.

Six million murdered by Nazis is too hard to comprehend.

Where were the civilized countries? Canada. British in Palestine. The United States.

All turned their backs.

To conclude, one memory, from one friend from Kristalnacht, the night the world turned dark.