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Israel Independence Day Celebrations Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Celebrations and Holidays

Every year around April, excitement fills the streets when Israel celebrates its birthday. Flags decorate every corner; the radio broadcasts Hebrew songs from all times; and people getting ready to the family barbecue.

Israel Flag at Masada (1) by Larry Koester from Flickr.com is licensed under CC BY-2.0

Israelis observe this special day with the same traditional rituals. The main event is the official ceremony on Independence Day eve that closes the events of Yom Hazikaron (the memorial day for the fallen soldiers of Israel and victims of terrorism), and opens the Independence Day celebrations.

Independence (feminine) = עַצְמָאוּת

Independence day (masculine) = יוֹם הָעַצְמָאוּת

Celebration (feminine) = חֲגִיגָה

Independence Day celebrations (feminine) = חֲגׅיגוֺת יוֹם הָעַצְמָאוּת


Mount Herzl הַר הֶרְצְל

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) is known in Israel as “visionary of the state” (חוֹזֵה הַמְדִינָה). Herzl was a Jewish Austro-Hungarian who formed the Zionist Organization and promoted the efforts to establish a Jewish state. He passed away 44 years before the Israeli declaration of Independence. In his will, Herzl stipulated that he wished “to be buried in the vault beside my father, and to lie there till the Jewish people shall take my remains to Israel”. In 1949, the Jewish nation brought his remains to bury in Jerusalem on a mount named in his memory – Mount Herzl הַר הֶרְצְל.

הַר הֶרְצְל נׅקְרָא עַל שֵׁמוֺ שֶׁל חוֹזֵה הַמְדִינָה, תֵּיאוֺדוֺר הֶרְצְל.

Mount Herzl was named after the “visionary of the state”, Theodor Herzl.

On Independence Day eve the following year, a military organization held a ceremony around Herzl’s grave. They lit torches to honor the state of Israel and invited the Speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) as their guest of honor. A decade later, the ceremony became an official annual state ceremony, with strict orders and permanent customs. Every Independence Day eve on Mount Herzl, טֶקֶס הַדְלָקַת הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת (the torch kindling ceremony) is held and broadcasted on national television.


The torch kindling ceremony  טֶקֶס הַדְלָקַת הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת

The ceremony opens at 19:45, with the entrance of the Knesset guard to the ceremonial square, to welcome the entourage of the Speaker of the Knesset. The entourage of the Speaker of the Knesset enters after them, examines the guards, and sits. Then the commander of the ceremony arrives, and asks the Speaker of the Knesset his permission to continue the ceremony. Only after the Speaker’s approval, the guard takes its place.

Knesset (feminine) = כְּנֶסֶת

Speaker of the Knesset (masculine) = יוֹשֵׁב רֹאשׁ הַכְּנֶסֶת

Knesset guard (masculine) = מִשְׁמָר הַכְּנֶסֶת

יוֹשֵׁב רֹאשׁ הַכְּנֶסֶת מְיַצֵּג אֶת הַכְּנֶסֶת וְהַמֶּמְשָׁלָה.

The Speaker of the Knesset represents the Knesset and the Government.

מִשְׁמָר הַכְּנֶסֶת מְקַבֵּל אֶת פְּנֵי פָּמַלְיַת יוֹשֵׁב רֹאשׁ הַכְּנֶסֶת.

The Knesset guard welcomes the entourage of the Speaker of the Knesset.

The entrance of the Knesset Speaker at the 62th Independence Day ceremony:


Yizkor יִזְכֹּור

The ceremony begins with a mourning blast, and the recitation of the Yizkor יִזְכֹּור (meaning “remembrance”). יִזְכֹּור is a Jewish memorial prayer in remembrance of the fallen soldiers of Israel. Then, at exactly 20:00, the Israeli flag is raised to the top of the flagpole, symbolizing the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day.

Flag (masculine) = דֶּגֶל

Flagpole (masculine) = תֹּורֶן

הֲנָפַת דֶּגֶל הַמְּדִינָה לְרֺאשׁ הַתֹּורֶן מְסַמֶּלֶת אֶת תְּחִילַת חֲגִיגוֺת יוֹם הָעַצְמָאוּת.

Raising the state flag to the top of the pole symbolizes the beginning of Independence Day celebrations.

Raising the flag at the 63th Independence Day:


Kindling the torches הַדְלָקַת הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת

The Speaker of the Knesset delivers a speech, the only speech in the ceremony. After the speech, the Speaker is honored to kindle the central torch, marking the Independence Day of Israel. The Speaker returns to his seat, and 12 or more chosen citizens are invited to kindle 12 torches representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Every citizen introduces himself, announces in honor of who or what he is kindling this torch, and completes his words with the statement: “to the glory of the state of Israel!”.

Torch (feminine) =  מַשּׂוּאָה

ד”ר גַּבְרׅיאֵל עׅידָן שֶׁהִמְצִיא אֶת קַפְּסוּלַת הָאֶנְדוֺסְקוֺפְּיָה הָיָה בֵּין מַשּׂׅיאֵי הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת בּׅשְׁנַת 2015.

Dr. Gabriel Idan who invented the Capsule Endoscopy was among the torches kindlier in 2015.

עַל אַף עׅיוְורוֺנָה, דׅינָה סַמְטֵה שֶׁהֵשׂׅיאָה מַשׂוּאָה בּׅשְׁנַת 2017, מִתְנַדֶּבֶת לְמַעַן הָעִיוֵּרים.

Despite her blindness, Dina Samte who kindled a torch in 2017, volunteers for the blinds.

כָּל מַשּׂׅיא מַשּׂוּאָה מְסַיֵּים אֶת דְּבָרָיו בָּהַכְרָזָה: ״לְתִּפְאֶרֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל!״.

Every torch kindlier ends his words with the declaration: “to the glory of the state of Israel!”.

The journalist Lucy Aharish kindling a torch at the 67th Independence Day:


Drilling exercises תַּרְגִּילֵי סֵדֶר

My mom’s favorite part of the ceremony is the drilling exercises performed by the soldiers who are bearing the flags. The number of soldiers participating is as the number of the years of Israel. This year Israel is celebrating its 70th birthday, so 70 soldiers will bear IDF different corps’ flags. The flag squad creates accurate structures relevant to the central ceremony, for instance: the Star of David, the number of the years of Israel, the seven-branched candelabrum, etc.

Squad (feminine) = חוּלְיָה

Flag squad (feminine) = חוּלְיַת דַּגְלָנׅים

חוּלְיַת הַדַּגְלָנׅים, בְּלִוּוּי תִּזְמֹורֶת צה”ל, מְבַצַּעַת תַּרְגִּילֵי סֵדֶר מַרְהִיבׅים.

The flag squad, accompanied by the IDF orchestra, performs spectacular drilling exercises.

Beautiful drilling exercises at the 67th Independence Day:


Handing over the standards מַעֲמָד הַעֲבָרַת הַדְּגָלׅים הָרָאשׁׅיּׅים

Every year a different IDF unit guards the flags of the state of Israel and of the IDF. During the ceremony, the flags are handed over to the next IDF unit for safekeeping. After the flags are handed over it’s time for the national anthem. The soldiers on the ceremonial square and the crowd sing the hymn together. To end the ceremony the parade paces in front the Speaker of the Knesset, salutes to him, and leaves the square. The commander leaves last, not before announcing to the Speaker that the ceremony ends.

Ceremony (masculine) = טֶקֶס

Commander of the ceremony (masculine) = מְפַקֵּד הַטֶּקֶס

אַחֲרוֹן יוֺצֵא מְפַקֵּד הַטֶּקֶס, מַצְדּׅיעַ גַּם הוּא לְיוֹשֵׁב רֹאשׁ הַכְּנֶסֶת, וְחוֺתֵם אֶת הַטֶּקֶס בַּמּׅילׅים “אָדוֺנׅי, תַּם הַטֶּקֶס, אָדוֺנׅי”.

The commander of the ceremony is the last to leave. He salutes to the Speaker of the Knesset too, and concludes the ceremony with the words: “Sir, the ceremony is over, sir”.

Handing over the standards at the 64th Independence Day:


The traditional ceremony encourages the unity of the people, but sometimes it is also at the center of controversial events. In 2011, for example, during טֶקֶס הַדְלָקַת הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת for the 63rd anniversary of Israel, Yoel Shalit and his girlfriend stormed the ceremony. His brother, Gilad Shalit, the Israeli kidnapped solider, had been held captive by Hamas for five years. Yoel and his girlfriend burst into the ceremonial square between the fourth and the fifth torches, and shouted: “Gilad is still alive!” over and over. You can watch the incident in this video, or read about it (in English) in this article.

Gilad was released before the next טֶקֶס הַדְלָקַת הַמַּשּׂוּאוֺת, but this ceremony wasn’t a happy one. A fatality occurred, when a lighting rig collapsed during the ceremony rehearsals a week before the ceremony. IDF officer Hila Betzaleli was killed, and seven other soldiers from the flag squad were injured. You can watch the tragic news in this video (in Hebrew), or read about it (in English) in this article. In 2012, the annual ceremony was sad than ever, despite the usual artistic performances and fireworks.

Hopefully, the coming ceremony of Israel 70th birthday will be exciting. Don’t miss it – this 18th April on Israeli television.

יוֹם עַצְמָאוּת שָׂמֵחַ!

Happy Independence Day!

You are welcome to watch the full ceremonies of Israel 63th Independence Day, 65th, 66th and 67th on YouTube. Enjoy 🙂


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