Celebrate Israel Year-Round. Here’s How!

What’s your favorite way to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day? Tuck into a jumbo bag of pita chips and Costco-sized tub of hummus?

If so, you could use a few new ideas. Israel’s 66th birthday falls on Tuesday, May 6. It will be marked in the Twin Cities by “Am Yisrael Chai Days”, twenty days of activities and celebrations.

Lots of fun things to choose from. But what can YOU do to get in the spirit now and keep that spirit going?

Here, in no order of importance, are ways that I bring Israel home, all year round:

Photo credit- Jonathan Lovekin

Photo credit- Jonathan Lovekin

1. FOOD: Sure, you could stop and pick up a falafel on your way home from work. Or, you could actually learn how to cook a dish from the master Israeli chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. Try this to-die-for salmon recipe, without a doubt the tastiest salmon dish I have ever eaten. When I serve it to guests, conversation comes to a complete halt, except for groans of delight. I promise not to reveal the names of those guests who have gotten up to scrape the last of the sauce from the pan.

If you end up buying an Ottolenghi cookbook or three, I will just smile and say “I told you so.”

2. MUSIC: Surrounding me when I drive, energizing me when I exercise, and washing over me while I cook- the haunting and unforgettable melodies of the Idan Raichel Project. If you are familiar with his music, you know what I mean. If not, do yourself a favor and get acquainted. What began ten years ago as a melding of Israeli and Ethiopian sounds has broadened to a kind of international fusion. Check out the music videos on his website, download songs from iTunes.
The best part?
The Idan Raichel Project is performing HERE on Wednesday, May 14! Click here for ticket information. Idan Raichel ad

3. MOVIES: Netflix has a decent selection of Israeli films, although they lean toward serious, conflict-related themes. For Yom HaAtzmaut, leave the heavy stuff aside and enjoy the thoroughly delightful film, “The Matchmaker”.

4. TV: Watch just two episodes of the Israeli TV series “S’rugim” and you will be hooked. “S’rugim” means “knitted” in Hebrew, and refers to the kind of kippot worn by religious, nationalist Israelis. It is the story of a group of thirty-something religious Israelis, all single, living and working in Jerusalem, and looking for their soul mates. The characters are real, compelling and grow more likable with each episode (okay, all but Nati). My high school Hebrew students are wild about this program! “S’rugim” is shown periodically on cable TV’s “The Jewish Channel”. You can also purchase it and watch it, with English subtitles, on your computer (unless your DVD player plays foreign DVDs). Split the cost with a few friends and watch it together!

5. READ “A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS”: Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel is set in 1940’s Jerusalem. It is the kind of book that you hate to see end, that you wish you could forget so as to re-read it anew. Soon the book will be a movie, with Natalie Portman making her directorial debut and acting in a key role. Read the book now and you will be able to dazzle your friends with your thoughtful comparison of film versus book. It’s been translated into English and is available on Amazon, in both book and e-reader formats.

6. SET UP A FARE ALERT: Go to one of the myriad airline website (i.e. Kayak) and set up a fare alert. That will put “trip to Israel” into your consciousness and may transform it into a reality. If you are willing to travel at an off-peak time you can sometimes snag an truly bargain fare. When I traveled to Israel last month, I paid less than $700 for a round trip ticket! Keeping an eye on the airfares really paid off. It is often much less expensive to fly to Israel from Chicago- even when you add in the cost of getting yourself to and from Chicago.

7. SHOW SOME LOVE TO THE IDF: There are multitude of ways to direct tzedakah to Israel, but for Yom HaAtzmaut my favorite way is to send pizza to soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces.You can do it too- click this link and see how easy it is.


Finally, watch this trailer and wait patiently but expectantly for the general release of the documentary about the foreign volunteers who flew in Israel’s Squadron 101 in the War of Independence and helped build the Israel Air Force from the bottom up.

See our great Minnesota World War II hero Leon Frankel—to be honored at the JCRC annual event on June 8—interviewed at length in the documentary about his role as a pilot in Squadron 101.

The trailer, let alone the documentary, may bring tears to your eyes and remind you what the stakes were in 1948. And how much we have to celebrate today, sixty-six years later.