Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day is not just a national holiday with fireworks, bar-b-q’s and concerts. In the Dati-Leumi, Religious Zionist community, it is a chag, a religious holiday. According to the Chief Rabbinate, prayers of thanksgiving (Hallel and psalms) are added to the service. We do not recite Tachnun and the restrictions of mourning during the counting of the Omer are lifted.
Is this enough to make Yom HaAtzmaut into a religious holiday?
For the first commemoration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut (1949), Professor Ezra Tzion Melamed wrote a form of an Al HaNisim (For the Miracles) prayer similar to the Al HaNisim that we add to Shmoneh Esrei (Silent Devotion) and Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) on Chanuka and Purim. The Kibbutz HaDadati (Religious Kibbutz Movement) incorporated this prayer and published it in their Yom HaAtzmaut Machzor (1975) as a suggested addition but the Chief Rabbinate did not recommend it and therefore it never really took off.
Shlomo Posner was critical of the Kibbutz HaDati for suggesting Al HaNisim rather than making it an obligatory part of the service.
Over the years, different versions of Al HaNisim have emerged including Siddur Ga’al Yisrael by the Hesder Yeshiva in Ramat Gan (1997), Siddur HaMikdash by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel (1998) and Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria (1999).
The different versions of the prayer became more widespread with the release of the Koren Yom HaAtzmaut Machzor in 2013 which offers the option of three of the versions listed above.
Last year, the Beit Hillel organization composed a version of Al HaNisim which is listed below. Whichever version you choose, you will find that adding the miracles of the establishment of the State of Israel to your Shmoneh Esrei and Birkat HaMazon will elevate the day to a true chag, religious holiday and not just a secular day off from work.
Beit Hillel’s version of Al HaNisim for Yom Ha’Atzmaut:
Al HaNisim: And [we thank you] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days and in our days.
In the days of the ingathering of the exiles and the beginning of the rebirth of the nation, when the Arab nations attacked the Jewish people, to kill and dispossess them from Your land, including those remnants of the Holocaust and war, “the brands plucked from the fire” (Zecharia 3:2), You in your great mercy strengthened their hand and inspired their courage, You went against them and fought their battles, causing their enemies to flee before them and you redeemed them from the hand of those who were stronger than them. At that point, your children gathered and established the State of Israel in Your land, built houses, planted fields and helped Torah grow, living securely as stated in your words. And they established Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day, to offer thanksgiving and praise on the redemption and rebirth.
May we see the full redemption speedily in our days!
Chag HaAtzmaut Sameach from Yerushalayim.