“And say unto them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold I will take the children of Yisrael from among the nations whither they are gone and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land.” Ezekiel 37:21 (The Israel Bible™)
Thursday, Israel celebrates 68 years of independence. (Photo: Israel365)
One of the most difficult transitions of the year for Israel is the one between the mourning of Memorial Day and the celebrations of Independence Day, marked back-to-back each year. As the sun set Wednesday evening, the entire country shifted from sadness to joy with fireworks, free concerts and performances across the state.
On May 14, 1948, a date which corresponds to the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar, the State of Israel declared its independence. It was immediately attacked by the forces of five powerful Arab armies, yet the tiny Jewish state prevailed. Finally, after thousands of years, the Jewish people were again sovereign in their Biblical homeland.
Since then, Israel has memorialized its fallen soldiers the day before celebrating its independence each year to appreciate what their loss helped secure. The official torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl during the intervening evening bridges the two days.
This year, in keeping with the theme of “civilian bravery”, the torches were lit by Rona Ramon, Herzl Biton, Gabi Barshishat, Avi Toibin, Dr. Anan Falah, Nili and Moshe Levy, Hillel Bareli, Rotem Elisha, Fainy Sukenik, Yaakov Ehrenfeld, Father Gabriel Naddaf, IDF representative Sgt. Roberto Farah-Usa and Border Police representative Staff Sgt. Alison Berson.
The official ceremony also included a military marching performance, conducted by Col. (ret.) David Rokani, who has led the march for the past 34 years. Earlier this week, Rokani announced that this would be his final parade.
Free concerts, fireworks displays and performances took place across the country Wednesday night. Well-known Israeli artists took to stages in local parks alongside children’s presentation, and parties lasted well into the night.
Thursday is a national holiday, and most Israelis will not be working today. Instead, they will hold barbecues and cookouts with family and friends, visit parks and beaches, or attend one of the many air shows put on by the Israel Air Force. Various army bases and museums are also open to the public during the day.
Israel’s annual International Bible Quiz is held each year on Independence Day. This year’s theme is “Jewish Unity”. It is traditionally attended by the Prime Minister.
Thursday evening, President Reuven Rivlin will host a reception for ambassadors to Israel, and later, the annual Israel Prize ceremony will be held, recognizing Israeli achievements in a wide range of arts and sciences. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend these events, as wel