Although you may not be celebrating Israel Independence Day in Israel this year, here are places to learn about the country’s important milestone when you do visit.
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the creation of the State of Israel in the hall of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which in 1978 was renovated to become Independence Hall. The historic hall, which is open to visitors, is set up in the original layout, with a photo of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, hanging behind the middle of the table, flanked by two long Israeli flags. Most of the pieces in the room are original, including the broadcasting equipment and pictures on the wall.
Visitors can listen to the recording of the ceremony, which includes the reading of the declaration of independence, a recitation of the Shehecheyanu and the singing of “Hatikva.” There is also a 16-minute film that describes the building’s history. Visit eretzmuseum.org.il.
Atlit ‘Illegal’ Immigration Detention Center
When many Jewish refugees arrived in Palestine in 1939-1948, tens of thousands of them were detained at the Atlit “Illegal” Immigration Detention Center, where they were interned until Israel became a state (after 1946, the British deported refugees to detention camps in Cyprus).
The camp, located on Israel’s Mediterranean coast south of Haifa, was run by British authorities who limited Jewish immigration to the country.
The visitor’s center at the site — a project of Jewish National Fund and declared a national heritage site in 1987 — includes a ship that is similar in size and appearance to those used to transport immigrants to Israel and, through a multimedia presentation, simulates the voyage of two young immigrants to the land of Israel.
Visitors can also tour a model of the original camp, restored barracks and a disinfection room where new immigrants had to remove their clothes for disinfection and a shower before being admitted. More than 122,000 ma’apilim (illegal immigrants) arrived in Israel from 1934 through 1948.
At Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, visitors can learn about Holocaust survivors who came to the land of Israel after the war.
On yadvashem.org, visitors can view two online exhibits on this topic: “My Homeland: Holocaust Survivors in Israel” and “To Build and to be Built: The Contribution of Holocaust Survivors to the State of Israel.”
“The concept of choice is a major theme in the lives of the survivors who came to Israel,” professor Hanna Yablonka, historical consultant to the “My Homeland” exhibition, wrote on the museum’s website. “When World War II ended, most of the survivors chose to rebuild their lives, and chose to do so in the land of Israel, the land they called home.”
“To Build and to be Built” tells the stories of the survivors who came to Israel after the war and helped build the Jewish state.
Some artifacts mentioned in these exhibitions are on display in the museum, which is located in Jerusalem.