Fourth of July in Israel: Is it a real thing?

Fourth of July in Israel: Is it a real thing?

Nothing is more American than the Fourth of July, but a closer look reveals that the day commemorating the independence of the Thirteen Colonies actually binds Israel and the US as spiritual allies.

Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, establishing the United States of America.

Independence Day is commonly celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches, and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States.

Coincidentally, July 4, 1776, corresponded to 17 Tammuz 5536, a Jewish fast day commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. The day also traditionally commemorates the destruction of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and other historical calamities that befell the Jewish people on the same date. It marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av.

The fast in Tammuz, the fourth month of the Hebrew Calendar, is mentioned by the Prophet Zechariah, who predicts that in the Messianic era, it will change from a day of austerity into a day of celebration:

Thus said the lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity. Zechariah 8:19

In a very real way, the Fourth of July was the manifestation of Zechariah’s prophecy.

Despite this connection, it was not until 2019 that the US Embassy in Israel held its traditional Fourth of July celebration in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem. The celebration was held on Monday evening at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but several members of Netanyahu’s coalition were left off the guest list.

Also, this Fourth of July marks the 47th anniversary of Operation Thunderbolt, also known as the Entebbe Raid, the daring IDF operation to rescue over 100 hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The raid is embedded in the national consciousness of every Israeli, and one which represents to the core the Jewish life-cherishing principles that have given Israel its strength and power. More than that, the rescue operation is a clear revelation of the hand of God upon the people of Israel. 

Many Israelis in Israel and the US celebrate the Fourth of July. An estimated 140,000 Jewish Israelis have migrated to the US. One prominent example is the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In  1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, while his father Benzion Netanyahu, taught at Dropsie College.

Conversely, over 200,000 people with citizenship of both countries live in Israel. 

This intermingling of populations is personified in Shayna Rehberg-Paquin, who lives in Tzfat with her husband and seven children.

“We celebrate both the American Independence Day and the Israeli Yom Haatzmaut, but they are, of course, not the same,” she told Israel365 News. “Although we live in Israel, and this has been my home for 20 years, my husband serves in the US Army Reserves, where he is training to be a chaplain, so we are uniquely connected to both countries. We usually have a BBQ and sparklers or glow sticks, and celebrate with friends either at our home or with the local ‘ex-pat’ community.”

Batya Medad currently lives in Shiloh in Samaria. Batya is active on social media, and several hundred people in Israel and abroad follow her on Facebook.

“I don’t have many memories of the 4th of July from when I lived in the US, though I must have been at various celebrations when I was growing up in Bayside, Queens. I lived there until I was 13,” Batya said. “When I became a zionist in my late teens, my national loyalties changed completely. My husband and I made aliyah by ship in the summer of 1970 as part of the largest group of Americans to ever make aliyah at one time. I was interviewed for American TV before the boat left port, and when asked why I was leaving the USA for Israel, I stated that America was a Christian country (which is what the founding fathers had in mind) and I wanted to live in a Jewish one.”

Batya no longer celebrates American holidays.

“I only identify with Israeli Independence Day,” she said, adding, “It’s preceded by Memorial Day, as should be for an independence day.”.

Arnie Draiman has lived in Israel for 39 years and is currently a resident of Jerusalem.

“I don’t celebrate July 4th, but I do mark it usually with a Facebook post about America and freedom or some piece of American history,” he said. “I grew up in Washington DC, so the fireworks were a big deal for kids. But now that I am an adult in Israel, it is less so.”

“July 4th, sadly, is less meaningful to most Americans than Yom Haatzmaut is to Israelis,” he noted. “While everyone enjoys a day off from work and both holidays are marked by barbecues and trips to the beach,I think there is more of a feeling about the meaning of Independence Day in Israel.”

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