April 26 marks Yom Ha’atzmaut, more commonly known as Israel Independence Day. The holiday honors the founding of Israel in 1948, when David Ben-Gurion declared its independence as a Jewish state.
This year, though, the date has even more significance than usual: 2023 marks 75 years since the founding of Israel, a cause for celebration for many Jewish people across the world.
To celebrate such a momentous occasion, Jewish organizations all across the Baltimore area will be hosting events dedicated to honoring Israel’s history and achievements as a community.
One of the largest Yom Ha’atzmaut events in the area will be The Baltimore Community Celebrates Israel @ 75, a carnival held at Chizuk Amuno Congregation on April 30 that will be featuring activities for all ages.
With carnival games and hair braiding for kids, and drum circles and a hummus-making contest for adults, this Israel-themed event has something for everyone — all with an Israeli twist, and all for free.
Many different Baltimore-area Jewish organizations and synagogues are partnering with the Baltimore Zionist District for the carnival. These organizations include Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Beth El Congregation, Jewish National Fund USA, Jewish Educational Services and more.
“It’s highlighting Israeli activities for the Baltimore community, so they can all come together in one place and celebrate Israel together,” BZD Executive Director Caren Leven said. She added that planning for The Baltimore Community Celebrates Israel @ 75 started in September of 2022, and that its partners have shown a lot of enthusiasm for it. In addition to the activities that will be available throughout the day, Sen. Ben Cardin will be giving a speech at the event.
BZD has held events for Yom Ha’atzmaut in the past, usually in partnership with other Jewish organizations — but in celebration of Israel’s 75-year milestone, this will be one of their biggest.
“I would say it’s one of the biggest events of the year for the Baltimore community,” Leven added. “Definitely come out with your Israeli flag, wear blue and white and prepare to have a good time. Be ready to join your community in celebrating Israel.”
On the business side of things, the Baltimore Jewish Council, the Maryland/Israel Development Center and The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore will be holding a showcase of Israeli businesses and technology at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on May 2. “Baltimore Celebrates Israel: 75 Years of Technology and Innovations” plans to feature tech demonstrations from Israeli companies across various industries, such as defense company Mistral, cybersecurity company Cytwist and forensic science test developers IDenta Corporation.
MIDC is heavily involved with these Israeli businesses, many of which have set up shop in Maryland. The organization’s aim is to encourage Israeli companies to set up American branches using Maryland as their home base.
“Our job is to promote Maryland to these Israeli companies and assure them it’s a great place to open an American headquarters, and to provide them with whatever services they might need to enter the American market,” MIDC Executive Director David Speer said.
Currently, MIDC works with 39 Israeli businesses, 12 of which will be appearing at the museum showcase.
BJC Executive Director Howard Libit was also heavily involved in planning the event.
“We thought we wanted to do something focusing on some of the miracles of Israel: the miracle of technology and the miracle of innovation,” he explained. “We thought this could be a high-end way to celebrate Israel.”
Israel boasts one of the most developed science and technology sectors in the world — as of 2022, it ranked 16th out of 132 countries on the World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2022 Global Innovation Index.
Libit added that several representatives from the state, including Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, will be attending the event and speaking on Maryland’s association with Israeli businesses and technology.
“We try to involve people on the business level,” Speer said. “But I would say that the event is going to be very fun. There’s going to be a lot of cool demonstrations to see. And it’ll be in a great location, because [the museum] really ties into Baltimore’s industrial history, which is really important to us as well.”
These are just two of the many events that will be taking place around Baltimore to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut and Israel’s 75th anniversary. In addition, Beth Tfiloh Congregation will be hosting a 75th Birthday Bash on April 25, while Jewish Educational Services is conducting an art contest for students that will run through May 18. Prior to that, the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival will be kicking off with a screening of the documentary “Exodus 91” and a performance from Ethiopian-Israeli singer-songwriter Aveva Dese, more commonly known as AvevA.
“My hope for this is that people really continue to come together to stand with Israel, to keep Israel close to their hearts, to realize that no matter what’s going on in Israel, and what they hear that’s going on in Israel, that it’s still our homeland, and that we are here to support it,” Leven said. “We are always here to support Israel as much as we possibly can, and this is a good opportunity to come together and celebrate 75 years of independence and 75 years of having a homeland for the Jewish people.”