Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mourning on the Anniversary of Israeli Independence

In Israel, Independence Day is oddly coupled with Memorial Day, the day we remember our fallen soldiers. First comes Memorial Day, followed immediately by Independence Day. Jewish holidays begin at sundown of the day before, and even the civil holidays and remembrance days in Israel follow this tradition. For this reason, at 8 PM sharp on the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, we go from manic to depressive. We stop crying and start celebrating.

This odd coupling has created a situation where our public schools don't celebrate independece. They can't do that on the day before Independence Day, because that's Memorial Day and schools have ceremonies for the dead. Some schools might have celebrations on the day after Independence Day, but many don't.

Another oddity of the Memorial Day/Independence Day duo is that by law, if the 4th of Iyar falls on a Sunday, then Memorial Day is pushed to Monday so Memorial Day Eve would not come immediately after the Sabbath, and then Independence Day is pushed to Tuesday. That means that, absurdly, on the anniversary of the declaration of independence, the 5th of Iyar, Israelis don't celebrate but rather mourn. That's the situation this year.

Imagine if every few years the United States would celebrate Independence Day on the 5th of July and held a day of mourning on the 4th of July. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well, that's how we do it in Israel.

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