Five ways to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut

From a day at the beach to drinking beer peppered with Cuban tobacco, activities abound for Israel’s 67th birthday

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Passover is a fine time to head to the Tel Aviv beaches (Photo credit: Kfir Bolotin)
Passover is a fine time to head to the Tel Aviv beaches (Photo credit: Kfir Bolotin)

Yes, it’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, that annual day of celebration when every park, grassy plain and highway divider is occupied by some gathering of people fanning the barbecue, urging their kebabs, chicken cutlets and hotdogs to grill just a little faster.

We have no beef with that side of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations; go ahead, man (or woman) your grills, baste those chicken legs (be sure to read #5, which refers to a new gizmo that’ll help perfect cooking time) and crack open a beer (and we’ve got some ideas on that front as well).

But there are some additional ways with which one can ponder Israel’s 67 years, thinking about what it means for this country to still be so young, and yet, to have attained a certain amount of wisdom.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Israel’s birthday:

1) Wanna hear “Hatikva” sung where you might least expect it? Watch this clip (below) of “Invisiball,” by choreographer Nadine Bommer, who created an hour-long ode to the Israeli soccer experience. Her dancers, all women, are both the players and the fans, their bewigged heads and made-up faces, not to mention their androgynous soccer gear, make the audience think they’re at a real soccer game. That could also be because the audience becomes part of the performance, dividing themselves into red and yellow, the colors of the teams onstage.

Created first as a short, 10-minute piece using Animato, Bommer’s method of using animation, kinetic movement and theater as part of dance, Invisiball creates the full-fledged soccer experience, as if the audience were watching a soccer game in person or on TV along with elements of foosball, table soccer, too.

“I love the angles and the humor,” Bommer said, who has danced for New York’s Alvin Ailey and American Ballet Theater youth troupes. “It gives you a language for body movement.”

Invisiball will be performed in New York in June, with the Nadine Animato Theater Dance Company as well as local New York dancers, at 501 Union Street, Brooklyn, Wednesday, June 24; Thursday, June 25, Friday, June 26.

*The most striking part about teaching the dance to a new troupe? They have to learn to sing “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem. To hear “Hatikva,” go to 1:30 in the embedded video.

2) How about a dose of Israeli culture? Many museums are open and free of charge on Yom Ha’atzmaut, including the Israel Museum. It’s a good day to see “1965 Today”, one of the museum’s new exhibits in celebration of its 50th anniversary, which will formally be marked in May.

The exhibit offers a quirky look at the art, design and moving imagery of Israel in 1965, just 17 years after statehood and in the midst of the iconic 1960s. Start with the opening gallery, which displays items from everyday life; think avocado kitchen cabinets and record players, for the proper 1960s aesthetic. From there, the exhibit offers a selection of 50 artworks, all dating to 1965, including Yaacov Agam’s colorful Op Art and Yigal Tumarkin’s collage and Pop-like imagery. The third piece is an installation of original film footage that includes newsreels and 8mm home movies, showing events at home and abroad, moments we can all reflect upon.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, circa 1965 Courtesy: Estate of Rolf Kneller)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, circa 1965 Courtesy: Estate of Rolf Kneller)

There’s also the outdoor version of Israeli culture. Tel Aviv’s beach officially opened this week, and it’s a good an opportunity as any to visit the city’s beaches that were named by National Geographic as one of the world’s top ten beach cities. There are some new treats this year, including games of chess, checkers and board games, as well as portable coastal libraries (Jerusalem Beach, Gordon Beach, Mezizim Beach and HaTzuk North Beach) stocked with books for readers of all ages.

There’s also free Wifi, all Tel Aviv beaches are wheelchair accessible, and there are three dog-friendly beaches (south of Tel Baruch, north of Hilton Beach and south Charles Clore beach).

Until May 31, lifeguard hours are 7:15 am to 4:45 pm, extending to 5:45 pm in June, and 6:45 pm in July and August.

Nobelist Robert Yisrael Aumann and his granddaughter studying Talmud in Uri Rosenwaks' documentary series, 'The Nobelists' (Courtesy Ruth Diskin Films)
Nobelist Robert Yisrael Aumann and his granddaughter studying Talmud in Uri Rosenwaks’ documentary series, ‘The Nobelists’ (Courtesy Ruth Diskin Films)

3) Go see a movie, or, stay home and watch one. Uri Rosenwaks’ “The Nobelists”, about Israel’s recent Nobel Prize laureates in science, math and economics, is being screened on YES Docu and through YES Vod beginning Wednesday night, as well as at the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa Cinematheques. The film, broken into five, 35-minute chapters, offers an in-depth look at the prize winners, offering a more intimate view of their personal histories and professional strides. And yes, it also explains each laureate’s theory and achievement that catapulted them to the Norwegian honor.

Herzl's Embargo beer, with tones of tobacco (Courtesy Beerblog)
Herzl’s Embargo beer, with tones of tobacco (Courtesy Beerblog)

4) Looking for a beer? There are shelves of Israeli boutique beers — as well as the ubiquitous Maccabi — that offer the perfect beverage for that burger or steak. But perhaps the most appropriate beer for Israel’s 67th is from the independent Herzl Brewery, which recently began making Embargo, a porter peppered with Cuban tobacco, according to Yochai Meital, one of the bloggers for Beerblog. Meital wrote that Herzl made this beer in the past, from a home recipe, and when it won a silver medal at an international Berlin beer competition. The porter ale is completely black, and lacking any foam, with hints of chocolate, a light smoky flavor and a hint of vanilla.

A trio of Jezreel Valley wines, the 2013 Carignon at the center (Courtesy Jezreel Valley)
A trio of Jezreel Valley wines, the 2013 Adumim at the center (Courtesy Jezreel Valley)

If it’s wine you prefer, consider Jezreel Valley’s Adumim 2013, which owner Jacob Ner-David calls “a true Israeli wine” for its blend of Carrignan, Syrah and Argaman, an Israeli varietal developed at the Volcanic Institute. The 2012 vintage of this blend won the silver medal at the Terravino international wine competition. Wine critic Michael Ben Yosef recently called the NIS 95 bottle of wine “new and successful” in a review in Cigar Magazine, with the Argaman controlling the red hue of the wine, while the Syrah offers gentle tones and the Carrignan gives it strength.

5) Finally, we can’t help but marvel at this latest barbecue gadget, cooked up in the Golan, home to Israel’s homegrown beef industry. AgroIan Golan Heights, from Moshav Nov, has developed a meat timer that scores the readiness of meat being grilled or baked in the oven, letting cooks know when the meat is rare, medium rare or well done. The timer can be used for chicken, beef or lamb, and for grills holding many burgers or steaks at the same time. Go to the Agrolan website or Facebook page for more information.

Agrolan's meat timer, ready to let cooks know when their steaks are rare, medium rare or well done (Courtesy Agrolan)
Agrolan’s meat timer, ready to let cooks know when their steaks are rare, medium rare or well done (Courtesy Agrolan)

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