Monday, April 30, 2012

Yom ha-Atzmaut

Israeli flag hanging from my mirpeset (porch)
On Wednesday night, as I wrote in my last post, I was visiting friends in Tzur Hadassah and spent the end of Yom ha-Zikaron with them.

Yom ha-Atzmaut officially begins with a special national ceremony at 8:00 pm - the lighting of 12 torches at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. I watched part of the ceremony with my friends, something I hadn't done before during my previous visits to Israel. It was interesting. Apparently, every year there is a different theme and the organizers choose people connected to that theme to light the torches. The theme this year was water, so people from organizations that have something to do with water (like Mekorot, the national water carrier) or activists from groups that work for clean water (like the Society for the Protection of Nature) were chosen. Each person was introduced, then stepped forward, said a few words ending with "to the splendor of the state of Israel" (לתפארת מדינת ישראל), and then lit the torch.

After watching the torch-lighting, we went to the center of Tzur Hadassah and encountered the popular celebration of the day - complete with children spraying each other with shaving cream (fortunately not aiming mostly at adults), people wearing blinking glasses, headdresses, and even earrings, and holding enormous plastic hammers. (I remember, many years ago on Yom ha-Atzmaut going out to the center of town in Jerusalem and buying little plastic hammers that made a boink sound when you hit someone with them - they are apparently now passé, I didn't see any in Tzur Hadassah). There was entertainment - music and dance - and lots of people milling around. After a while the dance performances stopped, and there was another torch-lighting ceremony, this time by local people in education. And immediately afterward, fireworks!

 Little birds in the garden of my apartment building.
The next morning I got up relatively late and lazed around and took some photos of my garden.

Some of the beautiful roses in the garden.
Around 11 am I went to see other friends to have brunch with them on their porch. One of the great Israeli traditions on Yom ha-Atzmaut is to go out into the country and have a barbecue (or a mangal), but we didn't do that - we had bagels & lox.

Another traditional activity is a flyby by Israeli Air Force planes - we saw some big helicopters flying over the President's house (where there was a ceremony honoring the 100 best soldiers in the army), a formation of five planes together, and then some time later, a formation of four planes with exhaust trails making big circles in the sky (I didn't get any photos of them).

Three military helicopters flying over the President's Residence at the time of a ceremony honoring outstanding Israeli soldiers.
Five Israeli Air Force planes flying in formation over the skies of Jerusalem.
Then, later in the afternoon, we went out for our own visit to the countryside, for a hike and not a mangal. We went to a place called Hirbet Madras, which has several archaeological sites from the Second Temple period - first century BCE and CE, and into the early 2nd century. Below are photos of this beautiful area of the country and some of the archaeological sites.
Foothills of the Judean Hills, near Givat Yeshayahu, in the Adullam Park.

Looking across the Green Line, towards a large Jewish town/settlement, I don't know which one. The Green Line refers to the border between Israeli-held and Jordanian held areas of Palestine at the end of the 1948 War. Jordan named the area they occupied the West Bank (since Jordan was mostly on the east bank of the Jordan River, this was a way to integrate it into Jordan). In 1967 Israel conquered the West Bank.

Fig tree growing at the bottom of the entrance to caves where Jews hid from the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt in the second century CE.

"Pyramid" over a Jewish burial cave, probably from the first century BC or CE

Cutting hay in the fields near Tzafririm.

The moshav of Zafririm.

Grasses drying in the late spring heat.

Looking towards fields from the Adullam Park.

Inside Jewish tomb from the end of the first century CE - on the right is an ossuary and its cover. An ossuary is a stone box where the bones were put a year after the burial in the cave, after the flesh had fallen off the bones.
Entrance of the Jewish burial cave - notice the round stone, which was rolled in front of the cave after burial. It was destroyed by vandals 15 years ago and recently restored.

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