Mention the 4th of July to someone on the street, and most people know you’re talking about Independence Day in the USA. Mention the 5th of Iyar and you will probably have people scratching their heads. Ask about Iyar 5th in Israel however, and they will gladly tell you all about Israel’s Independence Day - a modern national holiday unlike any other!
This year, the celebration falls on 6th of May, and as each day in the Hebrew calendar starts at sunset the evening before, it is the night of the 5th that the party gets started. Crowds hit the streets - young, old, middle aged and children, all ready to greet you and spray total strangers with shaving foam and silly string! Cities host open air concerts that are free to all with music and dance. Flags are the order of the day and people walk around, proudly bearing their national symbol emblazoned on hats, blow up hammers and flags draped around their shoulders as a sign of solidarity and survival. The party goes on late into the night, with fireworks and general fun-loving revelry, long after the concerts have finished and the shaving foam canisters have run out!
The next day, the city wakes up a little later than usual, but it is not too long before everyone is out once more to enjoy the fine day and grab their favourite picnic spot on the beach or in the park. Fly-overs and sail-bys, BBQs and beaches, family and fun are the order of the day, and unlike many some countries, beautiful, sunny weather is all but guaranteed! Smoke rises from parks and picnic sites around the country as families and friends lay out rugs, food and fan their BBQs into flame. It is impossible to walk around without salivating with the smell of cooked delicacies all around you. And then the entertainment starts. Aircraft of variouskinds begin to fly over in formation, some performing manoeuvres of speed and agility like the jets, and others lumbering by more slowly like the huge cargo carriers and refuelling planes. Then, before the noise of the engines has died away, fleets of military vessels begin to appear on the horizon of the Mediterranean and chug past, glowing with different coloured smoke flares and sounding their horns. And somewhere in the middle of this, you suddenly see parachutists begin to drop in from the sky, landing on the beach with coloured smoke flares firing from their ankles.
By now the food is ready and the enjoyable feasting begins and lasts throughout the day. Children play, adults sit relaxed and chatting away, the energetic play ball games and the not so energetic sunbathe or snooze in the afternoon heat. There is work and school tomorrow, but nobody is in a hurry to pack up and go home. Today is a good day to be thankful for a nation, and be thankful to be alive.
For more information about the history of Israel's Independence Day click here