During this time of confusion and isolation, it is increasingly difficult to find the positives within everyday life. Yom Ha’atzmaut, however, is something that should be celebrated – even if, this year, it’s just within your immediate family. Translated to the day of independence, the Israeli national holiday commemorates the signing of the Israeli declaration of Independence in 1948. Whilst usually it is a time for the Jewish community to coalesce in person, the quarantine insures that we have to adapt our customs and celebrate his holiday differently. 

For the first time ever, the holiday will be majorly celebrated online. The Jewish Agency coupled with 10 other organizations have been hosting a daylong virtual party, including performances by a range of entertainers, from singers to celebrity chefs. The OFJCC team is collating images to portray Yom Haatzmaut virtually, allow those to share their love of Israel from their own homes. Although this sounds strange, it presents us with an opportunity to partake in a new way of celebrating Israels independence, and break the fixity of celebrating the same way every year, even if this is not by choice; the newfound ‘online community’ is much larger and widespread, giving us a give unique perspective into how we are moulding to new surroundings across the globe. We should also take solace in the fact that the Jewish community remains strong and present in the most unlikely of events. 

Coming off the back of Yom Hazikaron, an extremely solemn time marked by silences and mourning, the celebration of Israel’s independence is the perfect way to mark a shift from sadness to positivity. It is a time to celebrate all good things about Israel, and to give a direct juxtaposition from the dejection. It gives homage to Israel’s natural beauty, its mixture of cultures that together produce literature, music, arts, sciences and technological advances, it’s economic successes and it’s boisterous democracy – which without, we may not have anything to talk about. 

Unfortunately, it is difficult to celebrate the formation of Israel without addressing the rise in anti-zionism we see today. Anti-Zionist conspiracy theories about the pandemic are proliferating, with conspiracists already disseminating views on how the virus is of Israeli invention, with one tweet acknowledging that if there was a vaccine created by Israeli scientists, they would not use it. Furthermore, mainstream media such as the anti-Zionist publication Mondoweiss, edited in the US, printed a cartoon by artist Carlos Latuff, showing the coronavirus being weaponised by Israel in the form of landmines ready to attack Palestinians. It was captioned ‘‘Israel and coronavirus unite against occupied native Palestinians.’

In times like these, especially with the rising hatred towards Israel, we should not take for granted or ignore a festival celebrating Israeli independence. Theodor Herzl wrote that  “If you will it, it is no dream.” The establishment of Israel has been a contentious issue, and Herzl was mocked for his ideas, forty-two years ago. Now however, one hundred and fourteen years after Herzl’s novel was published and seventy-two years from the signing of the declaration of independence, we have the chance to celebrate Israelis independence as a state. Against all odds we still have an independent state: seventy-two years have included eight recognized wars, two Palestinian intifadas, a series of armed conflicts in the broader Arab–Israeli conflict across fifty-three years and an estimated 1,500 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in the past year alone – yet we remain a recognised, independent state. As a result, we should not take the opportunity to celebrate this for granted.  – Hugo Bransby, Muchan