The Hebrew calendar is filled with feasts, remembrances and celebrations. In fact, the Hebrew calendar may well contain more holidays than any other calendar in the world! In general, Jewish people love a good celebration, and they also give deep honor and remembrance when it is due.
Israeli holidays also seem to come in bunches. If you are familiar with the 7 major Biblical feasts, you know that Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits all occur within about a week during the springtime. Likewise, the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur and Feast of Tabernacles take place in very short order in the fall.
So it is with some civic holidays as well. Within the span of a week, Israeli’s just commemorated Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for those lost in Israel’s wars and to terrorism) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day). Thus, two of the most sober civil commemorations are followed immediately by one of the most joyous days on the Hebrew calendar! BBQ’s in the parks, picnics on the beaches and dancing all around!
But some will astutely say, “I thought Israel’s Independence Day is May 14…so why did they celebrate on May 4?” Ahhh….great question!
Yes, internationally, May 14, 1948, is recognized as the day Israel declared independence and the nation was reborn. But keep in mind, though Israelis abide (for the most part) by the Gregorian calendar used throughout the world, they celebrate Biblical and civic holidays according to the Hebrew calendar. The difference? Our Gregorian calendar is based on the sun, while the Hebrew calendar is based on the moon. (Every new moon is a new month.)
Also unique to Jewish culture is the fact a day begins at sundown! “That’s ridiculous,” you say. Oh, is it? Take a close look at Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31, and notice how God defined days during creation. When He said evening and morning were the ___ day, who are we to argue with Him!?! Evening and morning…that’s what makes a day in God’s book!
Finally, of interest is the Hebrew word yom. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and yom always refers to a 24-hour day…evening and morning. Yom is not used to describe an era or an unidentified time frame…always a 24-hour day. Thus, for those who wish to squeeze evolutionary theory into the Bible by supposing a day could mean ages or eras of time, there is just no way! When God created, He did it in 6 literal days (resting on the seventh). He did not need evolutionary processes to create. He simply spoke it all into existence.
So, as you think of Jewish holidays, whether Biblical feasts or civic commemorations, just know that the God of Israel is the God of all! His land and His people serve as a timepiece and a pattern for us as Christians, and whether the Jewish people realize it or not, the Messiah is evident even in their civic celebrations!