Tonight at sundown marks the start of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's 64th Independence Day. It's a day filled with ceremonies and festive celebrations.
The major State Ceremony for Yom HaAtzmaut takes place tonight at Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Ceremony in Jerusalem. This event marks the end of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s memorial day, which falls immediately before), and the beginning of the celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut. The ceremony involves performances, speeches, and a ceremonial lighting of twelve torches which symbolizes the Twelve tribes of Israel by twelve citizens who have made a great impact upon the country. At the same time, towns and cities across the country have parties and firework displays.
Tomorrow, parades and events take place across Israel including military fly-pasts, parades, a famous International Bible Competition, and the ceremony for the Israel Prize which is Israel’s highest award and honor. The Israel Prize is given each year to about 10-15 people in the presence of the presence of the President, Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the Supreme Court president.
Yom HaAtzmaut is a real family day, and Israelis flock to Israel’s National Parks, hiking trails, and beauty spots, for barbecues and picnics.
It's also a day when the Prayer for the State of Israel, said on Shabbat in most synagogues around the world, will be sung as part of the ceremonies and celebrations. Here is a video of the prayer being sung by Shai Abramson, Chief Cantor of the Israel Defense Forces (How many other countries have a chief cantor?) The video includes film clips from the 64 years of Israel's existence, from David Ben-Gurion to the Six Day War to the release of Gilad Schalit last year.
The Hebrew prayer and its English translation from the Sim Shalom siddur appear below the video. Chag Sameach!Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel; Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen.