Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Background
Biblical Israel dates back 3000 years. After the destruction of the Second Temple 2000 years ago, the Jewish people were dispersed to other countries all over the world. It wasn’t until 1948 that the modern country of Israel was created.
In 70 C.E., the Jewish people were expelled from their land by the Romans. Forced to live in foreign lands for 2000 years, the Jewish people retained their Jewish identity. Many adopted the language and customs of their host country but, at the same time, they continued to study Torah and observe Jewish traditions. Throughout this 2000 year period of exile, the Jewish people were often persecuted.
About 100 years ago Jewish pioneers from Europe and Russia returned to their ancient homeland, which was now called Palestine, a part of the Turkish Empire. The land that had once been so fertile had been neglected. It was mostly desert and swampland. Through much hard work, these early pioneers reclaimed the land and made it fertile once more. After World War I, the Turks were defeated and Palestine became a British Protectorate.
During World War II, European Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. 6,000,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust. After the war, the Jewish survivors no longer had homes to return to. On May 14, 1948, the United Nations voted to establish two countries in Palestine, one Arab and one Jewish. The Jews agreed to the resolution which gave them less than half of Palestine. The Arabs, however, were opposed to the resolution. Immediately Five Arab countries went to war against Israel hoping to drive all the Jews out. With their greater numbers and help from the British, the Arabs were certain they would be victorious. The Jews were fighting for their very survival and ultimately overcame great odds to defeat the Arab countries.
Yom Ha’Atzma-ut is Israel’s independence day. It is a new holiday celebrated with parades, picnics, aerial shows, campfires, dancing and noisy fun.
To Help Children Experience Israel
1. Tell stories about ancient Israel by revisiting some of the holidays (Hanukkah, Passover).
2. Have a picture book of modern Israel or photographs for children to explore.
3. Allow children to taste foods from Israel.
4. Play Israeli music.
5. Ask children if they know what language is spoken in Israel?
Ask if they know any Hebrew words? Help them recognize that, Shalom, Shabbat, challah, the blessings, and the names of many of the holidays are part of the Hebrew language.
6. Ask children if they have a Hebrew name?