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Independence Day

Independence Day 2018 and 2019

Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Independence Day, in Israel celebrates the day that the provisional government read and signed the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948.

YearDateDayHoliday
201819 AprThuIndependence Day
20199 MayThuIndependence Day

The date is determined by the Hebrew calendar, falling on the fifth day of the month of Iyar. Because the Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the date of the holiday changes each year. A lunisolar calendar includes months that are lunar months but years based on solar years.

Independence of Israel

As Jewish people fled from the Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s, many migrated to Israel. After World War II, many of these people were displaced, unable to return to their homeland and they hoped to create a Jewish state in what they called “allyah.” The British held control of Palestine and were unwilling to anger the Arab state, so they refused to agree. Violence grew between the Arabs, Jews and the British until Britain allowed the United Nations to step in and make a determination.

In 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine proposed ending British rule and separating the area into two states – one Jewish and one Arabic with an internationally controlled area around Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders accepted the plan, but the Palestinians, two-thirds of which were Arab, opposed any Jewish settlement in the area. On January 29, after the UN voted to partition the area, Palestinian guerrillas attacked Jewish settlements and neighbourhoods. Civil war ensued between Palestine and Israel from November 29, 1947 until May 14, 1948, when the state of Israel was formally established.

Yom Hazikaron

Yom Ha’atzmaut is always preceded by Israel’s Memorial Day, known as Yom Hazikaron. The two holidays are linked because Israel believes the existence of Israel is due to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for independence. The switch from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut takes place just a few minutes after sundown.

Traditions and Celebrations

Just after sundown on Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli flag is raised from half-staff, where it remains during the holiday, to the top of the flag pole. The president of Israel congratulates the citizens for their independence. There is a parade of military forces, all carrying the flags of their respective branches. The evening parade is followed by the lighting of a torch, known as hadiakat masuot, marking the achievements of Israel.

In large cities, crowds gather to watch public programs that are offered by the government for free. Israeli folk dances or traditional songs are performed in the streets. Displays of the technological achievements of the Israeli Defense Forces are common. The day is concluded with the awarding of the Israel Prize, which recognises an individual who has provided unique contributions to the country’s culture, science, arts and humanities.