Israeli children watch fireworks in the Mediterranean coastal city of Netanya, on May 5, 2014, during Israel's 66th Independence Day celebrations. Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared the existence of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv in 1948, ending the British mandate. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel celebrates its 69th Independence Day

A day after Israelis commemorated the country’s 23,544 fallen soldiers and civilians, who have been killed in wars and acts of terror since the establishment of the Jewish state, in 1948; Israel celebrated today its 69th Independence Day with festive celebrations, including a ceremony at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, as well as hundreds of thousands of families across the country enjoying the Israeli tradition of gathering in national parks to barbeque. In a special Independence Day greeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, that even though many doubted Israel’s ability to survive, the Jewish state has become a strong, democratic and prosperous nation that thrives, a country from which people all over the world could draw inspiration from.

“69 years ago, the State of Israel was founded. It  was a moment of triumph for our people. We had been scattered around the world for millennia. And then we returned to our ancient homeland, to build a safe haven, where we could live, and thriveNow, many doubted that this tiny State of Israel would survive. We were surrounded by hostile enemies, who attacked us again and again. So perhaps, for some, this skepticism was warranted. But survive we did. Much more than that. We thrived. Today Israel is strong, democratic, prosperous. And I have no doubt that in the coming 69 years, Israel will continue to thrive, be strong and prosperous. Our story is a story of hope. Not just for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity. We persevered through adversity against all odds. Anyone fighting for a just cause, fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds, could draw inspiration from our story.” Said Netanyahu.

As part of the Independence Day celebrations, Israel’s Air Force conducted a fly-over air show, which consisted of several types of planes and helicopters that traveled across the length of the country as a salute to the state and its citizens, and in a show of force to hostile elements in the region. For the first time in history, the fly-over featured the new advanced F-35 fighter-jets, which Israel acquired from the United States, providing it with significant air superiority in the chaotic Middle East.