Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror came to an end on Wednesday evening with sadness giving way to joy in a state ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to mark the start of the country's Independence Day.
The festive event is this year themed Israeli kinship and includes the lighting of 12 torches by 13 Israelis and a 19-year-old Mexican woman representing the Jewish Diaspora around the world.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an Independence Day greeting that was prerecorded and played at the event.
"Congratulations, our State of Israel. We love you so much. We have been a difficult year of a global epidemic and we went through it together," he said.
"Once again we have discovered how strong our nation is and how in the moment of truth we all mobilize to stay alive and get back to life. And we came back in full force," he said.
"We did it thanks to our medical teams and volunteers. We did it with the help of grandchildren who were missing their grandparents but brought their love to Zoom calls.
"We discovered our wonderful nation, our faith and life. We also put into action the words of Theodor Herzl who said, 'If you will it, it is no dream.' We are safeguarding our security while our forces face constant challenges and we salute them with love and admiration."
Among those chosen to light torches were medical professionals who were on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus, representatives of the IDF and Israel Police, an educator, a youth social activist and a woman who barely escaped with her life of domestic violence who is now a voice for other women suffering similar circumstances.
Chosen too was Shlomi Shabat, a popular singer who was critically ill with COVID-19 and who following his recovery became outspoken about the need to observe health mitigation in order to stop the spread of the disease.
This year's ceremony was attended by a crowd of no more than 700, in observance of coronavirus health restrictions, which while small was a massive change from last year's event that barred crowds from attending altogether.
A formation dance by 350 male and female members of the military dance into the form a syringe, honoring the successful vaccination drive that began last December and has thus far provided both coronavirus vaccine shots to approximately 5 million Israelis.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, whose company provided Israel with the vast majority of its vaccines, said in a pre-recorded video message that he was proud of the work Israel had done.
"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," he said.
"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."
Firework displays were also held in cities across the country to mark the holiday.
Independence Day will as always be packed with events that last throughout the day.
At 9:30am, President Reuven Rivlin will host IDF soldiers who were classed as outstanding by their commanders in an annual event at his residence in Jerusalem.
At 10:30am, the annual International Bible Quiz will be held in Jerusalem with the participation of the president, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other dignitaries.
That will be followed at 11am by the annual IAF flyover across the entire country, a popular event that sees Israelis flock to the beach and other open areas to enjoy the spectacle.
At 5pm, members of the diplomatic corps from around the world will be hosted by the president at his residence.
In the final event of the day, at 6:30pm the prestigious Israel Prize for excellence, known as the "Israeli Nobel," will be awarded to eight Israelis in the fields of the humanities, science and culture and for lifetime achievement.
The awards will be handed out in a special ceremony in the presence of the president, prime minister and Chief Justice Esther Hayut.
With restrictions on social gatherings greatly eased since last year, Israelis were also expected to take advantage of the spring weather to get together for the traditional barbecues held across the country.
First published: 19:43 , 04.14.21