image Photo: Flash90

Israel’s 73rd Independence Day

Israelis today celebrated 73 years since the Jewish State was re-established in 1948.

A state ceremony was televised live from Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to mark the start of the holiday last night, which is the largest and most watched even in the country.

The lifting of government-enacted restrictions permitted 700 people to attend this year’s event, which was closed to the public in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are fulfilling with great dedication the Zionist vision,” said Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin in opening remarks to those gathered, adding, “We have gone through a difficult time. Independence Day is the right moment to prioritize the things that connect us, the things that we have in common.”

The theme of this year’s ceremony was Israeli kinship.

A prerecorded Independence Day greeting from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was and played at the event.

“Dearest Israeli citizens, our 73rd Independence Day fills us with pride vis-à-vis our accomplishments and grants us much hope in our future. Together, we went through a very challenging year, a year facing a global pandemic. Because of the millions of COVID vaccines which we procured, and thanks to our wonderful medical and health authorities, we returned to life and returned to smile – even though we still do so beneath masks,” he said.

“In tandem with our struggle against the pandemic, we continued to build our beautiful country – we maintained a high credit rating, created the conditions for the takeoff of our economy, ensured security and achieved four historic peace agreements and new immigrants continue to flow into Israel knowing this is their home and place,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the bereaved whom we embraced during our Memorial Day. They grant us a lesson on how to deal with difficulties and to emerge from a crisis. Another thing to learn from them: also when we have differences of opinion and perspective, we are brothers and sisters. One big family,” underscored the Israeli Premier, underscoring that, “This independence is all of ours – Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze and Circassians. With the unique spirit that beats within us for thousands of years, we will stride forward with God’s help because much remains to be done.”

12 citizens and a woman from Mexico chosen to represent the Jewish Diaspora lighted torches while IDF honor guards held a parade. In tribute of Israel’s world’s leading vaccination drive, medical workers tasked with fighting the coronavirus were among those invited to light torches. An IDF dance troupe of 350 male and female soldiers performed in the shape of a syringe.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who is the son of Holocaust survivors, was also honored for having provided Israel with the vast majority of its vaccines.

“Like all Jews I am very proud of Israel. Proud of its existence for Jews wherever they are; proud of its accomplishments in science and technology, in innovation and many other fields,” said Bourla in a pre-recorded video message, adding, “The cooperation between Pfizer and Israel has brought about a new breakthrough. We together, are proving that through mass inoculation we can eradicate the coronavirus pandemic and save lives.”

The evening skies were lighted by firework displays nationwide.

At 9:30 this morning, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin conducted an annual ceremony at his official residence in Jerusalem, during which he bestowed honors on 120 outstanding IDF soldiers accompanied by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

In his Independence Day greeting to the nation, President Rivlin stressed that the ‘miracle called the State of Israel’ should not be taken for granted.

“As a child, I grew up in a reality in which we did not have a state. For myself, and those of my age, the state of Israel cannot be taken for granted. In contrast, for the young generation of today, the state of Israel which is powerful and mighty, modern and prosperous, which spearheads breakthrough and joy, is an existing fact – and it is good that it is so. However, the work of our domestic development, my dear ones, the development of our nation and society is not yet over. We must promote solidarity, cooperation, mutual responsibility always on the top of our priorities. We must remember that all of us, Jews and Arabs, secular, ultra-Orthodox and Religious, we have all been destined to live together in this land and this home,” said the 81-year-old leader.

“I believe in our destiny to live on this good land, to build and develop it for the good of all of its peoples. To protect it and to ensure its borders from any tyrant and enemy from near or far,” he added.

Other official Independence Day events include this morning’s annual International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem with the participation of President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu and other dignitaries.

The Israeli Air Force traditional fly-over show, featuring several types of military aircraft 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 across the region.

This afternoon, President Rivlin hosted members of the diplomatic corps from around the world.

Notable among congratulations of the 73rd anniversary of Israel’s founding from the international community was a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who offered remarks “On behalf of the Government of the United States of America.”

“As long-standing partners with shared democratic values, our countries stand united, whether in meeting the health and economic challenges of a virulent outbreak, driving entrepreneurship and innovation in our economies, forging stronger regional bonds, confronting shared security threats, or working towards a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous future for the people of the Middle East.  The United States remains unwavering in its commitment to Israel’s security and will work to maintain the strength of the enduring U.S.-Israel partnership, a relationship the United States deeply values,” said Washington’s top diplomat.

He concluded with the Hebrew words “Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach,” meaning ‘Happy Independence Day.’

The last official event will be held this evening with the awarding of the Israel Prize for excellence to 8 outstanding citizens for their accomplishments in the humanities, science and culture and lifetime achievement. The ceremony for what is regarded as the “Israeli Nobel” is held in the presence of President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut.

The Israeli public celebrated with family gatherings that traditionally feature barbecues. Hundreds of thousands of others enjoyed the beautiful spring weather while visiting national parks and nature reserves.