Israelis celebrate 58th Independence Day
The weather was fine and spirits were high as parks, forests and nature reserves filled with Israelis celebrating 58 years of the nation’s independence with the traditional barbecue; toast ceremony at President’s Residence honors military figures; Air force, naval bases, police stations and courts open doors to visitors
(VIDEO) Celebrating independence 2006: The weather was clear, spirits were high, and thousands of Israeli families set out across the country Wednesday to celebrate Israel’s 58th Independence Day.
To ensure that the day’s celebrations would pass peacefully, police raised alert to the highest level owing to some 80 unspecific terror warnings and deployed in Israel’s larger cities and along the border line until the end of the day.
On Wednesday morning Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, MKs Zeev Boim, Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz, Shimon Peres, former President Yitzhak Navon and various other ministers gathered at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem to hold the traditional toast honoring military figures there.
“Tomorrow a new government will be established, and I believe that it will have the parliament’s confidence. Israel’s 59th year sets out with a new government that faces difficult challenges. What unites this government is that it is exactly in the center. Between the generation of Israel’s founders, who allowed for its establishment and molded its character, and the next generation of fighters and commanders who are being decorated and appreciated today. Between these two we find ourselves. We will be inspired by the generations before us – it is not an exaggeration to say they allowed for the existence of the State of Israel,” Olmert said.
President Katsav emphasized the importance in the gathering of participants spanning many generations.
“This meeting is very stirring,” he said.
Thousands of Israeli families set out across country. (Photo: Yoav Galai)
“Your faith, vision, and strength of spirit allowed the Jewish nation to bring about, after 2,000 years, a great historical change. You laid the foundations which shaped Israel’s path. The person who is missing here, one of the paratroopers, is Ariel Sharon. I wish him a full recovery.”
Lighting up the barbecues
Israelis began arriving at parks and forests from the early morning, loaded with picnic foods and grills, and the Ashkelon National Park was already packed by 11:00 a.m. Police closed the parking lots and recommended picnickers choose alternate sites.
Navy bases in Haifa and Eilat opened their gates to the public Wednesday, as did Air Force bases in Sde Dov, Ramat David, and Tel Nof, where air shows will be held.
Air force pilots will hold flyovers in the north at 10:00 a.m., and over the President’s residence in Jerusalem between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. From there the jets will continue on to Tel Aviv and will fly over Sde Dov at noon.
The navy will hold a festive salute with the participation of the navy’s missile ships, hundreds of yachts and a ship from the Turkish navy. The show can be seen from Herzliya and Tel Aviv beaches between 12:30 and 3:00 p.m.
There will also be an open house with guided tours at the Jerusalem District Court. Jerusalem’s central Independence Day event will take place at the “Living Museum” in the Russian Compound.
The annual teen bible quiz hosted 59 Jewish adolescents from 34 countries in Europe and the Americas as well as from South Africa, Australia, India and Turkey. Adi Diamant of Moshav Gamzo was named the winner of the contest, which was broadcast live on Channel 1.
In the evening the Israel Prize award ceremony will take place in the Jerusalem Theater, with the attendance of President Katsav, PM Olmert, Shimon Peres and other top public figures.
Avi Cohen, Shmulik Hadad and Ahiya Raved contributed to the article