Israel celebrates 65 years of independence


Israelis transitioned from sadness to jubilation Monday night as they ushered in its 65th anniversary of independence.
Ceremony on Mount Herzl marking beginning of Independence Day, April 15, 2013. Photo: Screenshot Channel 10
The annual torch-lighting ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl marked the end of Remembrance Day on Monday evening and touched off Israel’s 65th Independence Day celebrations.

There were 14 torch lighters in this year’s ceremony including Danny Shapira, formerly Israel’s chief test pilot, noted historian Muki Tsur, Orthodox feminist and philosophy scholar Tamar Ross and Beduin Achva Academic College president Elian Elkarnoy.

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Members of Knesset in attendance included Leader of the Opposition Shelly Yacimovich, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett and Education Minister Shai Piron. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz was also present.

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein gave the opening address of the ceremony and lit the first torch of the event. Edelstein emphasized the importance of civility in Israeli political discourse. Edelstein said “Even when we argue we should never desire the destruction of our opponent.”

Armina Ashurov came to the ceremony from Netanya with her mother, niece and nephew. Ashurov made aliya from Azerbaijan 33 years ago when she was one years old with her parents. This is her first time coming to the ceremony. “I am very proud of the state that despite our enemies we survive every year,” she said, adding she feels Israeli and not something else.

Following a day of ceremonies honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, Israelis began to celebrate the country’s birthday.

Free outdoor concerts were set to be held in cities throughout the country on Monday evening.

On Tuesday the weather forecast called for rain in the north and central parts of the country and below seasonable temperatures but Israelis were still expected to visit the country’s parks and nature reserves in the hundreds of thousands and hold barbecues throughout the country.

More than 1.5 million people paid their respects to Israelis fallen on Sunday and Monday in nearly 60 state ceremonies. Israel, including the pre-state Yishuv, has lost 25,578 casualties to war and terrorism since 1860, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry.

This year saw a significant rise in the number of participants in Remembrance Day memorials, according to the Defense Ministry. 100,000 people visited the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem and 70,000 attended the Kiryat Shaul cemetery in north Tel Aviv.