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From somber remembering to jubilant schpritzing

by avi May 07 2008
HolidaysThings to do
Israel has employed one of the cleverest methods of fueling the emotional fire in order to instill the pride due its independence: contrast. By observing Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) right up until the onset of Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut), the joy of the day is effectively amplified. As soon as the stars come out, the festivities begin.

There's always a multitude of parties taking place in closed areas, where overpriced entrance fees only set the stage for expensive drinks from the bar.

But there is also the true, cheap Israeli fashion of celebration. Jerusalemites take to the streets to celebrate in style. The Ben Yehuda St. pedestrian mall teems with teenagers and adults marching up and down like some kind of mad parade of ants. If you're into public places crammed with people, mostly smiling, every one of them out to celebrate their nation's birthday as a collective, then this is the place to be.

Zion Square (Kikar Tzion) Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut) 2007

The most puzzling aspect of the proceedings is undoubtedly the proliferation of youth engaged in spraying each other with aerosol-propelled white oozes. Most of us probably prefer to stroll about the city with no foam and no silly string caked on our skin, hair and clothing. Other than having the mischievous side-effect of antagonizing innocent bystanders, this custom is a truly puzzling expression if nationalism.

The other primary captivating spectacle during Independence Day is at Sacher Park, where the municipality plans to dispatch beefed-up firefighter patrols this year. The trees that flank the park become giant lips perpetually exhaling billows of smoke, as if having just taken a drag from some kind of colossal celebratory national cigarette. The park itself teems with thousands upon thousands of Jerusalemites ritually roasting chicken liver skewers, turkey dogs and cilantro-laden beef kebabs on smoldering hibachis, paper plates fanning the coals for hours on end.

There are Frisbees being thrown, acoustic musical instruments being played, drinking and dancing, among many other forms of merrymaking. So if you don't pass out from smoke inhalation, or get driven insane by the shrieking youth (or by the shrieking adults for that matter), then the sense of community and bonding over the open flame is sure to please.

Photo of the hammer-bonking and white foam-exchanging masses in Zion Square for Independence Day 2007 courtesy of the15 from flickr under a creative commons license.

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