Happy birthday, Israel! Wednesday night will mark the beginning of Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which will continue throughout Thursday. However, before it can celebrate its 70th year of existence, Israel will take a day to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country: Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, will begin on Tuesday night and continue throughout Wednesday. A siren will sound at 8 pm on Tuesday night, and at 11 am on Wednesday, to commemorate the fallen. Below is a list of cultural events in the city dedicated to Israel’s annual days of commemoration and of celebration.

Yom Hazikaron Events

  1. Singing and Remembering, Tuesday, April 17,7:30 PM at Gola Cultural Terminal at First Station:  This event commemorates the fallen with “public singing” – a type of Israeli karaoke where everyone sings together. Short animated clips about fallen soldiers will be screened throughout the evening. The event is open to the public free of charge.
  2. Yom Hazikaron in Kikar Safra: Singing in the Center, Tuesday, April  17, 8:30 pm at Kikar Safra: This too, is a public singing event, this time, with the participation of major Israeli artists, such as Shuli Rand, Idan Yaniv, and Koren Elal. Short animated clips about soldiers will be screened throughout the evening. The event is open to the public free of charge.
  3. Friends Tell, Tuesday, April 17, 9:30 pm at Beit Alliance: This event offers a unique twist on the public singing concept: Participants can write in in advance requesting that certain songs be dedicated to friends and loved ones who have fallen, along with a picture and a short bio. The pictures will be shown and the bios will be read the night of the event, which is open to the public free of charge.
  4. Singing and Remembering, Tuesday, April 17, 9 pm at the Tower of David: As you’ve probably guessed by now, public singing to mark important national moments is an Israeli tradition. What makes this concert different is that a) it’s at the Tower of David, a beautiful landmark inside the Old City and b) it’s run by the immensely popular “Sharim Bagina” group, whose name means “Singing in the Garden”.
  5. Free Tour of Mount Herzl, Wednesday, April 18, 1:30 pm at Mount Herzl: This tour, by licensed tour guide Naftali Chen, offers a unique history of Israel’s national cemetery, as well as of the historical development of the days of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.

Additionally, there will be government memorial ceremonies at Mount Herzl at 11 am and at 1 pm.

Yom Haatzmaut Events

On Wednesday night, Israel does a 180-degree turn and becomes a place of joyous celebration. Yom Haatzmaut in Jerusalem is not to be missed! If you start off with the public concert at Kikar Safra and walk along Yaffo Street up to Mahane Yehuda, you will hear the music of public street parties mingling with the whining of little kids asking for Bamba. Vendors will try to ply you with some of the corniest Israel-themed tchotchkes you’ve ever seen, but you’ll be too busy munching on falafel to mind. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Free Concert, Wednesday, April 18, 10 pm at Independence Park: Featuring Liron Amram and the Panthers, Lior Narkis, and Balkan Beat Box, among others, this concert brings some of Israel’s best contemporary musicians and singers to the city for a free performance for the country’s birthday. There’ll be fireworks at 10:30 and at midnight.
  2. Concert and Folk Dance Party, Wednesday, April 18, 9:30 pm at Kikar Safra: This event starts out as a concert of Israeli classics and morphs into a folk dance party. It’s open to the public free of charge.
  3. Hammers at Night, Wednesday, April 18, 8:30 pm at the Tower of David: This event, in conjunction with the Secular Yeshiva, combines an Ehud Banai and Michal Lotan concert with F*** Up Night events, a “chulent party”, Israeli folk-dancing, discussions about Zionism, a regular dance party, and more. If you’re looking for a celebration that’s both fun and meaningful, this is the place to be.
  4. Atzmauta, Wednesday, April 18, 7 pm at Teddy Park: This event combines a singing circle, and a celebratory Yom Haatzmaut prayer, accompanied by musical instruments, with public singing (i.e. Israeli group karaoke) featuring guest Alma Zohar.
  5. Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra Concert, Wednesday, April 18, 9:30 pm at the Jerusalem Theater: This festive concert features Mozart and Beethoven, as well as Israeli songs.
  6. Hebrew University Students’ Union Party, Wednesday, April 18, 10:30 pm at Mamilla:  Great DJs and lots of alcohol right outside the Old City Walls -what’s not to love?
  7. Part of the Seventy, Wednesday, April 18, 9 pm at Beer Bazaar: This party celebrates Israel’s birthday with Israeli craft beers and the music of DJ ZHR. Entrance is free of charge.
  8. Independence Day Party, Wednesday, April 18, 10 pm at Nocturno: This all-night party promises to have you dancing your way through Israeli musical history, from Hava Alberstein through Sarit Hadad.
  9. The Train Theater Independence Day Performances, Thursday, April 19, times vary:  Whether you prefer “Beyond the Sea” a puppet show based on the writings of renowned Israeli poet Haim Nahman Bialik, or the “Blue and White Clown” performances, the Train Theater is a special experience for children and adults alike.
  10. Italian Israel Independence, Thursday, April 19, 10 am and onwards at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art: Free tours of the area around the museum will reveal the stories of the historical figures that Jerusalem’s streets are named for.
  11. Madame Prime Minister, Thursday, April 19, 10:30 am at Beit Mazya: This play by Psik Theater tells the story of Golda Meir’s life, as seen through the eyes of a little girl. Entrance is free of charge. It’s recommended to reserve your place in advance.
  12. The Beautiful Israeli, Thursday, April 19, 11 am at Beit Mazya: This satirical show presents four characters who are the final contestants on the fake-reality TV Show, “Face of a Nation”. Each character has to convince the audience that they are the true Israeli. Entrance is free of charge; it’s recommended to reserve your place in advance.
  13. Salt of the Earth, Thursday, April 19, 4:30 pm at Beit Mazya: This play by the Jerusalem Theater Company explores Israeli society through the figure of a museum security guard. Entrance is free of charge.
  14. KoomKoom Flyover, Thursday, April 19, 11 am at the Nature Museum: Puppet shows, lives music, children’s theater and more make this event, which is open to the public free of charge, fun for the whole family.
  15. Cardboard Themed Activities, Thursday, April 19, from 10 am onwards at the Bloomfield Science Museum: The museum will offer activities centered on its new exhibit, which explores different aspects of cardboard, including its artistic and scientific uses. Events include “Cartonella”, a play about a girl who lives in a world of cardboard, demonstrations on how cardboard is made, cardboard arts and crafts, and more.

Street Parties: Clearly the most important part of Yom Haatzmaut is the street party…I mean, celebrating Israel. Here are some stages to watch out for. (All performances start at 10 pm on Wednesday, April 18, unless otherwise noted):

  • Yaffo Street – Hip-hop and Groove with DJ Shlomi Pizmonim and Tali Ben Yitzhak
  • Hillel Street – Techno and Trance with Dj Terra/ DJ Sugiborn/DJ Nibur
  • Cats Square – DJ Shazo/Yaniv Daga/Barak Kapilto
  • Mahane Yehuda – DJ Pnina/DJ Balaboosta/Roi Beracha (starts at 11 pm)
  • Zion Square – Pritsat Disc, Reva Leafrica, Gilli Yallo, and more (starts at 9 pm)

One more place to check out: The First Station. With a dance party by the popular “Boogie” group that includes genres as diverse as belly-dancing, hip-hop, and flamenco, and an all-night party from the Gola Cultural Terminal, the First Station is the place to be if you want to party and have a good time without entering the madhouse known as the center of town. If you’re looking for a meaningful way to start the evening, the OU is having a special “transition ceremony” between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut at First Station at 6:30 pm.

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