Independence Day, which we celebrate every year on the day of the declaration of the state by David Ben-Gurion, is the holiday that expresses the rebirth of the Jewish state after two thousand years of exile and yearning.
Towards end of the British Mandate, on the day before Shabbat, on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State that was named - the State of Israel. At the state declaration ceremony, Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence, which is the founding document of the State, with its main focus on the aspiration to establish a model society and peace with our neighbors. The ceremony closed with the national anthem, "Hatikva" – comprised of two stanzas of Naftali Hertz Imber's poem "Our Hope." After the ceremony, joyous dancing broke out all over the country, and the Arab armies invaded Israel the next day. In the very midst of the battles, on May 1, 1949, on the eve of the Lag BaOmer Holiday, David Ben-Gurion gave an immediate order to establish the Israel Defense Forces. Another year of fighting had transpired since, before the armistice agreements were signed.
The dream of generations and the Zionist vision to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem was realized. Sixty-six years after the beginning of the First Aliyah, the State of Israel was established. This day was marked as a day of festivity and was added to the rest of the Jewish festivals instituted throughout the generations. As a new holiday, we had to shape it and give it a character and content that would express the magnitude of the event for many generations to come.
In order to instill the special significance of this day we must tell the entire history of the Jewish people. But we will suffice with a few major events that preceded its independence:
The Balfour Declaration on 2/11/1917 - recognition of the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the Land of Israel.
The United Nations Resolution on the Partition of the Land of Israel and the establishment of a Jewish State alongside an Arab State on November 29, 1947. The resolution was adopted by a majority of 33 supporting nations, with 13 oppositions and 10 abstentions. England refrained from voting.
The War of Independence - broke out the day after the UN General Assembly resolution. In this first war of independence we lost about six thousand men and women - soldiers and civilians.
> The Story
In the early years of the state various proposals were made on how to celebrate Independence Day. One of the most important of these was that of Prof. Ben-Zion Dinur, the first minister of education, who suggested that on every Independence Day, every family should conduct an Order of independence - a kind of replica of a Passover Seder, with passages from Bible, poetry, four cups of wine and holiday dishes. Among the special foods offered for this holiday was mallow - a spinach-like vegetable consumed by the people of Jerusalem during the siege.
Another idea was to arrange gatherings in synagogues and other public gathering places, where there would be public readings of the sixth scroll - the Declaration of Independence. Over the years, dozens of Haggadot have been produced to add historical and emotional content to the holiday.
Other proposals emphasized the need to assign a day of public soul-searching and on the other hand - a day without criticism, but rather – of expression of satisfaction over the tremendous act of the rebirth of the nation, the absorption of immigration and the flourishing of the wilderness in Israel.
> In Zionism
After all, the holiday became a popular day for spending time in nature, enjoying bar-b-cues and celebrations of groups and families. Various bodies organize Independence Day Ceremonies, holiday scrolls, holiday commanders, and torch lightings. In particular, holiday ceremonies with unique content have developed in the kibbutzim, and dozens of holiday scrolls that have been written specifically for this purpose serve these gatherings to-date.
Among the Haggadot, worthy of mentioning, is the Haggadah for the IDF, written by Aharon Megged in the style of the Passover Haggadah. However, under pressure from the military rabbinate the Haggadah was shelved because the IDF was the focal point in this Haggadah rather than the Holy One Blessed be He. In honor of the State of Israel's 50th anniversary, the Shittim Institute at Kibbutz Beit Hashita published a special edition of this Haggadah. The institute also created a holiday scroll for Independence Day with seven lights corresponding the seven lamps of the menorah, reading passages, poetry, four cups of wine and holiday dishes.
It is definitely applicable, also these days, alongside the joy of the masses on Independence Day, to imbue it with contextual emphasis on ideas connected to the rebirth of the nation and the values of the Declaration of Independence.