Updated: Jun 1, 2021
The only real way to celebrate Israeli Independence day like a true Israeli is to make your own “Al Ha’aish” which is Hebrew for...on the fire, or a barbecue! Yum!
Where should you have it? What should you serve? How will you make it the MOST Israeli-inspired BBQ of all time? We've got you covered!
1. First, buy a grill
Israeli's often use a disposable "mangal", which you can find easily portable at most supermarkets or rest stops! The mangal uses coal that you can buy along with it at any store, and can pop into your car trunk quickly! Israelis definitely use gas grills from time to time, but the true nature-loving, outdoorsy Israeli will definitely be bringing the mangal- along with his pakal kafe too, of course!
2. Barbecue outside
As a country without Sundays, Israelis make the most of their few national holidays by taking trips all over the country. On Independence Day, the entire country is off, and you’ll see thousands of Israelis barbecuing at the beach, in parks, and on tiyulim (hikes) all over the national parks and throughout nature! So find a good spot with some shade and a view, and get the fire started!
3. Use a Nafnaf
What’s a nafnaf? A nafnaf is an onomatopoeia for a flame-fanner used in Israel. Think about it! The flame makes a nafnaf kind of sound! There’s an “official” nafnaf made of hard plastic and available in an assortment of colors, but there are also the more “last minute” nafnafs, made of loose pieces of cardboard, paper or plastic plates, or anything that will help you fan the flame to light those coals!
4. Look up into the sky
Every year the IAF (Israeli Air Force) arranges a special air show and flies over much of the country. Air force pilots give up their day off to regale the Israeli public with aerobatic plane maneuvers in addition to flying some of Israel’s most impressive planes. Tel Aviv’s beaches are a great place to see the show, but this impressive flight is visible all over the country. All you have to do is check the time and look up!
5. Drink the Beer
Over the last two decades, craft brewing in Israel has grown into hundreds of different beers across the country! You can even find entire bars dedicated to Israeli craft beer in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Yafo. What better day to enjoy a local brew than Independence Day? Beer has been around the Middle East for centuries, and many brewing companies are reaching back to their Middle Eastern roots to find old recipes and brewing techniques left behind by hundreds of years of beer-making. Why not join the tradition and crack open a cold, Israeli beer?
6. Marinate marinate marinate!
Always prepare your meat. Try out some of Israel’s local spices, spice mixes, marinades, and excellent oils (olive, grapeseed, sesame) to marinate your meat before the big BBQ. Israelis never skimp on flavor. Try this recipe for Amba-marinated pargiyot (chicken thighs) from Israeli chef, Michael Solomonov:
1 1/2 cup roughly chopped onion 1 cup amba puree (available at Israeli supermarkets)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth and about as thick as a milkshake. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin the mixture. Toss 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch chunks with the marinade and seal in a zip-top bag.
Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to grill, wipe off the excess marinade, thread the chicken pieces on skewers, and grill directly over hot coals, turning every few minutes, until the chicken has lightly charred on the exterior and is cooked through about 8 minutes total.
7. Celebrate together!
Want to really celebrate like an Israeli on Yom Haatzmaut? Include EVERYONE. Independence day is one of the friendliest days of the year in Israel, where strangers will offer you anything from leftover coals to their last piece of steak. So grab your mangal, nafnaf, and invite your friends and family for an Al Ha’aish. You never know who you might meet!