was this apparent lack of success that ultimately generated the grassroots culture of Independence Day and invented the new ritual of the cookout.Independence day from below: from picnic to cookoutIt took a while for popular culture to ff ll this vacuum. In the ff rst years after inde-pendence, schools were in session on Independence Day, but with special programs to mark the occasion. It was not until 1952 that it became a vacation day for schools, meaning that parents had to entertain their children. Some organizations sponsored events for younger children and parents in a public venue, running through late afternoon (Herut1954a). But the children who participated were a tiny minority and it is quite possible that most children, like the adults, spent the day doing nothing. In any case, we have no evidence of family outings in the 1950s. The family character of the holiday, as we know it today, began to emerge in the late 1950s, when the
H. Shoham picnic was imported to the Israeli recreational culture in general and as an Independ-ence Day amusement in particular.In Mandatory Palestine, nature outings that centered around a large meal with family were not part of the leisure culture of the Jewish and Arab middle and upper classes, even though the idea was familiar and cropped up the press—but always in reports about events abroad (e.g., Doar Hayom1936; Al Hamishmar1945). Nor were there proper picnic grounds. It is only in the 1950s that we ff nd the ff rst uses of the word “picnic” in Hebrew, generally surrounded by quotation marks when it appeared in the contemporary press in an Israeli context (Landau 1950). By the end of the decade and in the early sixties, however, the word had been naturalized in Hebrew and no longer required the quotation marks. The practice itself had been adopted by the leisure-time culture of all sectors as a standard and increasingly pop-ular pastime for weekends, holidays, and vacations. Soon the picnic was almost the only acceptable way to spend the daytime hours of Independence Day.The custom originated among lower-class families, most of them immigrants from Muslim countries, who in the late 1950s and early 1960s began to congregate in city parks and on the beaches on Independence Day, where they cooked and ate a meal. Here, for example, is a report about Independence Day in the southern town of Beer Sheva in 1962: “Hundreds of families ‘invaded’ the picnic spots in the park outside City Hall and the park next to the municipal library, equipped with kerosene stoves and food” (Givon 1962.) Note that unlike the classic European picnic, which is based on food prepared in advance and taken to the park ready to eat, here the picnic menu was cooked on site. It was not organized by any authority; the fami-lies simply decided that the park was an appropriate place to spend the holiday. The same was true in other provincial towns, such as Netanya, whose parks and beaches attracted many families from nearby communities for picnics on Independence Day (Maariv1962a; Davar1962a).