What is Yom Ha’atzmaut?
Israeli Independence Day (known in Hebrew as Yom Ha’atzmaut) celebrates the creation of the Jewish State. Most countries have a birthday, a day each year that they remember their country’s start. In America, we celebrate our birthday on the 4th of July. This year, Israel’s Independence Day is on May 11th and 12th.
Modern Israel is only 68 years old which is really young for a country. But the people of Israel and the land of Israel have been marked by God for thousands of years. The Bible says they are “the Apple of God’s eye.” Does it seem strange that one of the world’s oldest nations has one of the youngest countries?
Israel is a very tiny piece of land, about the size of New Jersey, and is surrounded by much bigger countries. When Jews began moving back to Israel, after thousands of years away, they dreamed of making peace with their neighbors. The problem was that Israel’s neighbors did not want peace with a Jewish state. In fact, many leaders swore they would throw all the Jews into the sea.
The leaders of Israel decided to declare their independence as a country on the 14th of May. They didn’t know exactly where the borders should be and they hadn’t even picked a name for the country. The leaders hadn’t even finished writing their Declaration of Independence. Worst of all, everyone knew that right after they made the announcement, Israel would go to war.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, lead the independence ceremony with 200 of the nation’s leaders present. They met at a museum in Tel Aviv. The event was supposed to be top secret because they did not want Israel’s enemies to bomb the building during the ceremony. But the good news spread fast and people were outside the museum waving flags, dancing and cheering.
The next day, six of Israel’s neighboring Arab countries invaded. These Arab armies had more soldiers and better weapons than Israel. The women and teenagers in Israel had to join the men in fighting. Everyone outside of Israel thought it was impossible for one small new state to beat back so many invading armies. They feared all the Jews in Israel would be killed.
Instead, the Israeli army defeated every invading country. Not only did they defeat all their enemies, Israel won even more land. It was a miracle! God protected his nation and helped her be victorious. God showed that He still protects and cares for His people and His land.
In Israel’s fight for independence, she was like the small boy David and the Arab armies were the Goliath. But just as God helped David to defeat Goliath, He helped Israel defeat her enemies. And for that reason we celebrate with Israel this Independence Day. We are celebrating a miracle!
What is the nation of Israel?
2015 marks the 67th birthday of the modern State of Israel. However, the Bible tells us the nation of Israel started 4,000 years ago with a promise made to Abraham. “Look up at the stars in the sky,” God told Abraham. “You will have a son. He will have children, and his children will have children, and they will have more children, and one day they will be as many as the stars in the sky.”
Abraham was obedient to God and the promise came true. The Hebrew people grew and grew, even when they lived in slavery in Egypt. God choose Moses to deliver His people from Egypt and then He chose Joshua to lead them into the promised land. Under Joshua’s command, the Hebrew people battled the enemy nations already in the land. God was with them in every battle and they won.
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. (Psalm 137:5-6)
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)
Traditions for Yom Ha’atzmaout
Every year on Yom Ha’atzmaout the Israeli government has a ceremony on a mountain in Jerusalem called Mount Herzl. During the ceremony, soldiers march with Israeli flags, leaders give speeches and light twelve torches. Everyone honors the memory of the soldiers who died fighting for their country in 1948.
Also on Independence Day, the World Bible Quiz is held in Jerusalem. This year’s quiz has 52 contestants from 20 different countries.
During the afternoon, Israeli families go to parks and have picnics and barbecues. In the evening, they have street parties with food, singing, and a special style of Israeli dancing.
People decorate their homes, cars, and streets with Israeli flags and banners. Some say special prayers on this day, thanking God for gathering back the people of Israel to this tiny yet powerful country.
Facts and Figures about Israel
Israel has many important factors that make it such a special place: the land, the people, the food, the government, the history. There is no place like it anywhere in the world. Find out more about what makes this place so amazing by checking out these articles below.
*For Kids is created by Shelley Neese, vice president of The Jerusalem Connection.