By Michael Zeff/TPS
Jerusalem (TPS) – As Israel marks its 68th Independence Day, millions of citizens take to the streets and squares of the country to attend parties, street dancing, barbecues, or concerts open to the public. While some of them celebrate the country’s independence for the 68th time, among the joyful multitudes of Israelis are the newest citizens, recent immigrants known in Hebrew as olim.
Many of these new Israelis expressed amazement at how the day is celebrated in Israel in contrast with their native countries.
“In France people don’t care about their Independance Day, but here everyone takes out their Israeli flags and people are proud. It’s a real celebration,” Deborah Bertrand, a 20-year-old from the French Riviera city of Nice, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Bertrand immigrated to Israel a year ago and is now serving in the IDF. “I feel enormous pride to be in the Israeli army,” she said.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 36,000 olim arrived in Israel since last Independence Day. In 2015, 7,900 French Jews immigrated to Israel, against the backdrop of a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the country. The second largest group of olim came from the Ukraine with almost 7,000 people.
Dimitri Arutiunov, a 24-year-old immigrant from war-ravaged Ukraine, described the difference between his previous Ukranian Independence Days and the one in Israel.
“The most obvious difference to me is the fact that in Israel Independence Day is celebrated only after a Memorial Day is observed,” he told TPS.
“Before celebrating the nation’s independence, the country honors those who are responsible for it. It’s unique,” Arutiunov explained. “In the Ukraine and Russia, people don’t even know who is fighting for their country and who dies.”
Nina Rabinowitz, a 29-year old from New Jersey, immigrated to Israel just a few months ago and also noticed a distinct difference in the local Independence Day spirit.
“In the U.S. it feels like a duty or a requirement, but here in Israel it’s just cool that the whole country is celebrating,” Rabinowitz told TPS. “It feels much more like a holiday.”TPS / Tazpit News Agency