image Photo: Flash90

Israel celebrates 74th Independence Day

The nation marked the occasion with state ceremonies, and events with friends and families.

By Erin Viner

Thousands attended the annual torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem last night., which was held for the first time in two years without anti-COVID. Only 700 people were permitted at last year’s event, which was closed to the public entirely in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Israelis who work to unify the citizens of the state and advancing equality for all were honored for their extraordinary contributions at the ceremony. Those selected for the special honor were:

IDF Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yoram “Yaya” Yair: Chairman of both the Yahad United for Israel’s Soldiers dedicated to assisting underprivileged and lone soldiers, and Aharai education organization which helps prepare Israeli youth for military service. He is also the father of the late Capt. Shlomit Yair, who died in a plane crash with four fellow pilots while serving in the Israel Air Force.

Yael Scherer: a sexual assault survivor who is a leading activist for victims of victims of domestic abuse.

Kalman Samuels: the founder of the Shalva National Center for disabled people.

Angel Alon: a foster parent to 217 at-risk children for over three decades.

Asael Shabo: who became a Para-athlete after partial loss of his leg a 2002 terror attack in which his mother and three siblings were killed.

Lt. Col. (res.) Munir Madi: the Druze leader of the “Kerem-El” pre-army academy for both Druze and Jewish youth.

Dr. Simcha Gathon: a member of the Beta Israel community who leads the Center for the Legacy of Ethiopian Jewry.

IDF Lt. Hadar Cohen: head of a unit to assists immigrant recruits with basic training and Hebrew language.

Uri and Judge Mika Banki: who promote tolerance following the killing of their 16-year-old daughter Shira during a Jerusalem Pride March in 2015.

Rita Yahan-Farouz: a highly-acclaimed Israeli pop singer and actress who was born in Iran.

Elizaveta Sherstuk:  leader of the Chesed Chaim Humanitarian Aid Center that helped to organize rescue of  hundreds of Ukrainian Jews after the 24 February Russian invasion.

Edan Kleiman: an attorney left wheelchair-bound after being wounded during his military service in the Givati Brigade combat unit who now heads the Zahal (IDF) Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO) .

In the first-ever such move, another honorary torch-lighter was selected to represent undercover “police officers, Border Police officers, volunteers and reservists who are at the forefront of protecting state security and its citizens.”

The commander of the Israeli Police YAMAM Counter-Terror Unit, named only as “H,” was described as a 53-year-old father of three, “bold and accomplished officer” who has risked his life “countless times” in secret operations.

“I light this torch in honor of my brothers and sisters… who endanger their lives every day and night for Israel’s security,” the Yamam commander said

In his opening speech, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy noted, “We Israelis connect the many shades of us all to one human fabric, to the Israeli society that fills the hearts of us all. Determined and mission-laden, who repeatedly do the impossible against all odds.”

A pre-recorded Independence Day greeting from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was also played at the event (click here to see more).

As part of Independence Day celebrations, the annual International Youth Bible Contest was held at the Jerusalem Theater this morning with the participation of President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Bennett and other dignitaries.

After wishing good luck to “to all who love the Hebrew Bible,” President Herzog began his remarks by noting that his late mother Aura who recently passed away, was the founder of the Bible Contest.

In tribute to his mother’s central role in the event, the President’s first question to the contestants was: “In one book of the Bible, we find the expression: ‘so that succeeding generations of Israelites might be made to know’. Which?” The President also asked the participants: “One book from the Writings do we find the expression ‘in every generation’. Which?”

The quiz was followed by one of the most popular events, the annual Israel Air Force (IAI) flyover across the entire country (click here to see more).