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.

Southern Israel Red Alerts in Alumim

Southern Israel Red Alerts in Alumim

Sometimes you have to get out of Jerusalem, Israel, to appreciate the view.

View from Highway One Jerusalem Israel

All this rain we have been having may dampen our spirits, but it is fabulous for making the countryside green.

View from Jerusalem Highway 1

From the roads leading out of Jerusalem the valley is at its best.

Israel lines along road

Once on the road south, you see flat land and wires stretched across it.

Southern Israel farm land from highway

Farmers working between the rain storms along the way.

Sign from Red South Israel spring flower Adom Festival

February and March, and southern Israel is famous for its red flower festival.

However, once again southern Israel has red alerts, not flowers.

Kibbutz Alumim sign southern Israel

The sign at Kibbutz Alumim was the same as  on our previous visit in December 2012.

Kibbutz Alumim security fence

The electric security fence was opened carefully for our arrival.

Kibbutz Alumim green fields southern Israel

The green fields of the agricultural kibbutz stretched into the distance.

Kibbutz Alumim fence with warning sign to border of Aza

But it you turned around, another sign warned of the Gaza border ahead.

Kibbutz Alumim view of Gaza southern Israel

From the fields of Kibbutz Alumim, the Gaza border and buildings beyond are clearly in view.

Kibbutz Alumim bomb shelters near factory

Because of missiles and rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel, these bomb shelters are situated next to the factory. Workers have seconds to get inside to safety when a red alert warns of an oncoming projectile.

Kibbutz Alumim Iron Dome southern Israel

Alumim has two Iron Domes positioned for protection from Hamas and its rockets.

Kibbutz Alumim in spring southern Israel green

Why live in southern Israel? It’s beautiful. Israelis have made the desert bloom.

Aluim collection of rockets and missiles fired at southern Israel from Gaza

When Hamas is not firing these missiles, it is a wonderful place.

Long time resident Esther took time to share with us a bit of her story.

Southern Israel Kibbutz Alumim bomb shelter in home, bedroom safe room.

Rafi’s house, and every home, has a bomb shelter bedroom. Sealed rooms have again become a necessity with nightly rockets from Gaza.

Twenty years living under fire from Gaza. Esther and others try to keep a positive attitude, to make music chimes from missiles.

Kibbutz Alumim in southern Israel

Kibbutz Alumim had no red alerts when we were there last week, after a night of terror when a house in Sderot was hit. However, the newest round of red alerts included Alumim. The residents of southern Israel are weary, tired of red alerts, and want to go back to being known for their red flowers.