With countrywide closure during Independence Day, celebrations go online
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With countrywide closure during Independence Day, celebrations go online

All-day virtual marathons, Zoom parties, and film screenings on offer for Israel’s 72nd birthday, during the COVID-19 pandemic

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

Tel Aviv's City Hall will be lit up for this year's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration on April 28, 2020, which will eschew fireworks and parades for a more modest festivities in honor of Israel's 72nd year of independence. (courtesy, City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)
Tel Aviv's City Hall will be lit up for this year's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration on April 28, 2020, which will eschew fireworks and parades for a more modest festivities in honor of Israel's 72nd year of independence. (courtesy, City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa)

Celebrations for Israel’s 72nd Independence Day will look a little different this year, given the temporary lockdown in place because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which restricted people to their homes, and prevented the traditional holiday gatherings.

Instead of the usual staples of raucous backyard barbecues, outdoor concerts and fireworks, families are convening in their own homes to celebrate the annual holiday, which begins Tuesday evening, April 28 through Wednesday, April 29.

Several organizations are offering online programming as a way to fill the day, from the Jewish Agency’s six-hour extravaganza featuring a live concert with rap-pop artist Matisyahu, to the city of Tel Aviv’s municipality rooftop party, available on Facebook and Zoom.

We have collected a few other options as well, from films and talks to parties and quizzes. Take your pick. Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut.

1) Podcast Israel Story is hosting its virtual event, IsraPalooza. Throughout Wednesday, the podcast will be hosting Zoom conversations, interviews, workshops, cooking classes and concerts, all with personalities from and connected to Israel.

The poster for Israpalooza, the Yom Ha’atzmaut online celebration on April 29, 2020, organized by podcast Israel Story (Courtesy Israel Story)

There will be a session with renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman and a live concert with David Broza. Listen to a conversation with architect Moshe Safdie, or a chat with cookbook author Joan Nathan, firewall inventor Gil Shwed or Arab Israeli news anchor Lucy Aharish.

Collage artist Hanoch Piven will lead a family-friendly self-portrait workshop and chef Nir Mesika will teach a shakshuka cooking class.

Events start at 10 a.m. EDT and will continue throughout the day.

Tickets are available online at Israpalooza for a suggested donation of $1 per person (though people can pay as much or as little as they like).

2) Need something more official to make it feel like Yom Ha’atzmaut? Scan and bring President Reuven Rivlin into the house, with a nifty little app that works with Android phones and iPhone 7 and up, and uses camera phones to project the president into your living room.

שבוע טוב יקיריי ויקירותיי,השנה, לא נוכל להיפגש בטקסים, בבמות, בחגיגות. אז לרגל יום העצמאות ה-72 החלטתי לבוא לברך אתכם,…

פורסם על ידי ‏Reuven Ruvi Rivlin – ראובן רובי ריבלין‏ ב- יום שבת, 25 באפריל 2020

3) For something with a little more content, Toldot Yisrael — a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that records and shares the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the State of Israel — has produced a ready-to-use one hour Memorial Day-Independence Day program designed for individuals and communities to watch together, from home.

The program is built around eyewitness accounts to Israel’s founding by Harry Truman, Rabbi Norman Lamm, Yehuda Avner and others. Unlike the many other Zoom and Facebook Live events, this is a prerecorded, one-hour video that can be watched whenever you wish.

4) Take some time to watch “Sustainable Nation,” an hour-long documentary about three Israelis working to bring sustainable water solutions to the planet.

The award-winning film, directed by Micah Smith and produced by OpenDor Media, has been on the film festival circuit for the past year, but is being launched digitally this week on YouTube because of the global pandemic that has halted all public events.

During this time of a global pandemic, when the best defense against the virus is washing our hands, access to clean water is more critical than ever before, and the film resonates that need.

5) Need something a little lighter to take your mind off the troubles of the world? The Tel Aviv municipality is hosting a small portion of its usual Independence Day celebration, forgoing fireworks and parades for a simpler set of events, including a DJ-hosted rooftop party broadcast live on Zoom and Facebook, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 29.

Take a moment to boogie around your living room, or dance a hora. If you’ve got it in you, it’s still Yom Ha’atzmaut.

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