How to Celebrate Israel’s 72nd Independence Day From the Comfort of Your Home

Virtual events are replacing state and family gatherings during this year’s coronavirus lockdown – here are some of the highlights

Dina Kraft
Dina Kraft
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Rita performing in 2018.
Rita performing in 2018. Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Dina Kraft
Dina Kraft

There will be dancing. And DJs, sing-alongs, famous musicians, Broadway stars and, yes, even falafel. But like so many other birthday parties in the age of the coronavirus, Israel’s celebrations to mark its 72nd Independence Day on Wednesday will mostly happen from afar. Still, thanks to the magic of Zoom and Facebook Live, you will still be able to join in with the festivities.

Here’s a partial list of virtual gatherings or events you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch...

Worldwide Celebration of Israel’s Independence Day

This is the power hour of a day of events sponsored by the Jewish Agency – together with partners, including the Jewish Federations of North America – kicking off with a performance by Matisyahu. The American singer will be coming live from his home studio, performing his popular “One Day” song together with voices from Jewish communities around the world. There will be more singing by the Platt Brothers – Ben, Henry and Jonah – while Adeena Sussman, of bestselling cookbook “Sababa” fame, will be teaching viewers how to make falafel, tahini and eggplant steaks.

Watch live: Worldwide Celebration of Israel's Independence Day

Other highlights include actor Josh Malina offering an overview of how COVID-19 is being fought by Israeli doctors and scientists. Finally, Israeli pop star Rita and Broadway star Caissie Levy, alongside a mix of Diaspora and Israeli musicians, will lead viewers in a rendition of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva.”
When: 2-3 P.M. EST (9-10 P.M. Israel time)

More details here: www.jewishtogether.org/yom-haatzmaut-program

Jewish Agency Virtual Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration

Chef Chaim Cohen.
Chef Chaim Cohen.Credit: Yaron Brenner

If you are hungry for more than just an hour, the Jewish Agency is actually offering six hours of programming. It starts with an online quiz on Israeli trivia, and highlights include Israeli Olympic and Paralympic medalists offering tips on how to stay fit during lockdown. There is also a “How to do an indoor barbecue” workshop with Israeli celebrity chef Haim Cohen, and a global dance party by DJs from the Israeli radio station Galgalatz.
When: 11 A.M.-5 P.M. EST (6 P.M.-midnight Israel time)
Find it here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1092412701129230/

Israel Story’s ‘IsraPalooza’

Architect Moshe Safdie.
Architect Moshe Safdie.Credit: Courtesy of the Wolf Foundation

The hit Jewish podcast Israel Story has created “IsraPalooza,” which is billed as a full day of intimate conversations, interviews, family-friendly workshops, cooking classes and concerts with notable Israelis offering something for all. On the musical side, there will be a session with Itzhak Perlman, one of the world’s finest violinists, and a live concert with beloved singer-songwriter David Broza.

Other highlights include conversations with Canadian-Israeli architect Moshe Safdie and Lucy Aharish, the country’s best-known Arab-Israeli television journalist. Artist Hanoch Piven will also be leading a workshop – learn his secrets for creative portraits! – while celebrity chef Nir Mesika will be cooking up shakshuka.

Israeli television journalist Lucy Aharish.
Israeli television journalist Lucy Aharish.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Tickets are available online at IsraPalooza.org on a pay what you can basis (suggested donation $18), and there are group rates through synagogues, JCCs, or other local organizations. Questions? Write: israpalooza2020@gmail.com
When: 10 A.M.-10 P.M. EST (5 P.M.-5 A.M. Israel time)
Find it here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/israpalooza-registration-103066972088

Toldot Yisrael

Toldot Yisrael, a Jerusalem nonprofit that records and shares oral histories of men and women who helped establish Israel, has created – together with the Rabbinical Council of America – a ready-to-watch kit for Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days. The one-hour program, “From Remembrance to Independence: Behind the Scenes of Israel’s Founding,” is not live, but was prerecorded and focuses on several eyewitness accounts of Israel’s founding, including one by former U.S. President Harry Truman. It includes a guide for facilitating a program for communities, and a playlist for additional films and first-person accounts.
Find it here: http://www.toldotyisrael.org/en/yom-haatzmaut-5780/

Tel Aviv Municipality

Even from across the sea you can join the fun in Tel Aviv: There will be a DJ hosting a dance party from the roof of Tel Aviv’s city hall on Facebook Live. (https://www.facebook.com/TelAvivCityIL/)

And before the dancing begins, you can take part in the transition from the somber marking of Memorial Day to Independence Day through stories and songs.
When: Noon-1:30 P.M. EST (7-8:30 P.M. Israel time)
Find it here: https://visit.tel-aviv.gov.il/Pages/EventLocation.aspx?ListType=Events&ItemId=647

Israeli Army Base Tours

In past years on Independence Day, it has become a tradition for Israeli army bases to open their doors to the public. That’s not possible this year, of course – but virtual visits will be.
Find it here: https://www.idf.il/105949/

The traditional flyover of Israel Air Force jets is still taking place on Independence Day, but this year it’s a tribute to Israel’s medical professionals treating those with the coronavirus. The aircraft are scheduled to fly over each Israeli hospital. 
Find footage here: https://www.facebook.com/tzahalonline/

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