My family’s tradition of baking birthday cakes for Yom Haatzmaut started innocently enough.
On our first Israeli Independence Day as Israelis, in 2001, my husband and I wanted the kids to really appreciate the concept of the birth of the State of Israel. They were young, and we thought that a yummy birthday cake frosted white with a waving blue flag did the trick. We decorated similar cakes for the next three years.
Then we decided to get more creative. For Israel’s 57th birthday we created a map of the country shaped like a Heinz ketchup bottle. The family we get together with each year for a Yom Haatazmaut barbecue — they made aliyah the same year we did and were among the first friends we made in our community — said they could not wait to see what we would do the next year. A challenge.
The next year we made a cake with Noah’s ark since 58 in Hebrew letters is nun-chet, or Noach.
For the 61st we drew a map of the convergence of the new Route 6 and Route 1 leading to Jerusalem, where on the road as you are driving you see a six and a one together. For the 64th, a box of Crayola crayons touting the “many brilliant colors of Israel.” Last year, we quoted from the 65th chapter of Isaiah talking about the homes and the vineyards planted in the land of Israel.
While my husband is the cake decorator/artist (it’s always a white cake with white frosting), we all tell him how we want it to look. He and I solicit ideas from the kids, but the grownups get final say.
Each year in advance of the barbecue, our friends try to guess what the theme will be. Last year, we photographed small parts of the cake and texted them as hints.
For this year — 66 — my 12-year-old son came up with the idea. It’s top secret until tomorrow’s barbecue, so stay tuned.
UPDATE (May 6): This year’s birthday cake unveiled: A Snellen eye chart whose letters spell out, “The State of Israel, see it with a good eye.” In Hebrew, perfect, or 20-20, vision is referred to as “6-6” vision.