Presidential citations of excellence were awarded to 120 of the nation’s most outstanding servicemen and women as part of the State of Israel’s 74th Independence Day.
By Erin Viner
For the first time in his Presidency, Isaac Herzog opened the main national celebrations this morning at his official residence in Jerusalem. The prestigious events were attended by Israel’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and both past and present General Staff officers.
President Herzog chose to dedicate this year’s observance of Independence Day to social and human encounters between Israelis, “of the sort that bring out the best in everyone across all walks of Israeli society. As such, the event included video clips about individuals and organizations spreading a spirit of volunteering and light in Israeli society,” said a statement from his office.
The day began with one of the most annual popular events, an honorary flyover of the nation by Israeli Air Force (IAF) combat planes and helicopters, in a tribute to the outstanding soldiers, representing all branches of the IDF.
In an enthusiastic address to the flyover pilots over the radio system, President Herzog called out: “To all IAF pilots and IDF soldiers, in the skies, at sea, and on land, as we mark 74 years of Israeli independence, Happy Independence Day!”
The President and the IDF Chief of Staff then conducted a formal review of the outstanding soldiers in formation, taking place for the first time in a special structure that allowed guests to sit around the stage.
In remarks just ahead of the ceremony, Herzog wished the honorees, “Good morning to the State of Israel’s most outstanding soldiers! It brings such immense pride to see you,” stressing, “This is a great privilege. You were chosen out of tens if not hundreds of thousands. You are a great source of pride. I love you intensely, and I am proud of you as if you were my own sons and daughters.”
The President added: “I wish you all good health and success in your service and later in civilian life. Keep serving our country. Thanks to you, our country is so strong, successful, and well defended. Long live the Israel Defense Forces and best of success to you all!”
All of the festivities were televised live and included performances of renowned Israeli singers accompanied by military ensembles and the IDF Orchestra.
Special video greetings from United States President Joe Biden, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida were broadcast.