Independence Day, the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, is a particularly meaningful celebration for its citizens, who have physically and actively participated in the creation of the state and have witnessed the changes that have characterized it over the last 50 years.
In Israel, on the eve of Independence Day, as Remembrance Day draws to a close, a central torch-lighting ceremony takes place on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the burial place of Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, and of Israels leaders. The ceremony is held under the auspices of the speaker of the Knesset and begins with the recital of the Yizkor Remembrance prayer, in memory of the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces. Torches are then lit by 12 citizens from all walks of life in Israel, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The torchbearers are chosen to represent phases in the nations struggle for statehood and survival. This is followed by the raising of the national flag; a speech by the speaker of the Knesset; the ceremonial handing-over of the standards of the IDF and a march-past; presentations by dance groups; the singing of Hatikvah, the national anthem; and fireworks.
Around the country, municipalities and local authorities sponsor free public celebrations, including performances by popular artists; fireworks which can be seen all over the city; and loud-speakers broadcasting Israeli music. Multitudes go "downtown to participate in the holiday spirit.
On Independence Day, Israel Prizes in Jewish Studies; Humanities and Literature; Social Sciences and Education; Exact Sciences; Science, Agriculture and Medicine; and the Arts are awarded. Instituted in 1953, these prizes are presented each year by the Minister of Education and Culture to persons and organizations who have performed outstanding work in these fields.
The International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth, in which winners of competitions held in Israel and in Jewish communities abroad participate, is broadcast live on national television and attracts wide interest.
Army bases are opened to the public; IDF museums provide special shows free of charge; and air force fly-bys, as well as naval displays, take place.
Many citizens tour the countryside, traveling to battlefields of the War of Independence, visiting memorials to the fallen, going on nature hikes and, in general, spending the day outdoors picnicking and preparing barbecues.