The State of Israel celebrates its 68th Independence Day on Thursday, with events beginning Wednesday evening.
Independence Day celebrations will begin at 7:45pm with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl. The theme of this year's ceremony is "civilian bravery" and torches will be lit by Rona Ramon, Herzl Biton, Gabi Barshishat, Avi Toibin, Dr. Anan Falah, Nili and Moshe Levy, Hillel Bareli, Rotem Elisha, Fainy Sukenik, Yaakov Ehrenfeld, Father Gabriel Naddaf, IDF representative Sgt. Roberto Farah-Usa and Border Police representative Staff Sgt. Alison Berson.
In addition to the torch-lighting ceremony, IDF soldiers will put on a marching display, during which they will form elaborate shapes. It will be the final year the display will be commanded by Col. (ret.) David Rokani, who has been leading the marching soldiers for 34 years.
The opening ceremony will also include performances by the Cafe Shahor Hazak band, the band Knesiyat Hasekhel, singer Miri Mesika, and others.
The ceremony will end with a spectacular fireworks display.
Celebrations will continue on Thursday morning, starting with a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. The ceremony will begin at 8:45pm with a military fly-over consisting of a Blackhawk Helicopter accompanied by two Apache Helicopters.
It will be followed by the traditional awarding of the Medal of Excellence to soldiers and officers of the IDF. Among the 120 Medal of Excellence recipients are 77 men and 43 women, 17 lone soldiers, 9 volunteers, 12 kibbutz residents, 19 officers and 66 combat soldiers.
Following the ceremony, the President's Residence will host a musical event. This year, the president decided to invite older artists whose songs are played less than in the past. Miri Aloni and Dafna Armoni, who will perform alongside younger artists like Amir Dadon and the band Hatikva 6.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other dignitaries will be in attendance.
The International Bible Quiz will take place at 11:30am at the Jerusalem Theater. Sixty-five young people, from Israel and 33 countries around the world, will participate in this year's quiz, the theme of which is "Jewish Unity." Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to attend as well.
At around 5pm, President Reuven Rivlin will host a reception for Ambassadors to Israel and other members of the diplomatic corps. Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to attend as well.
The final major event of the day will be the Israel Prize ceremony at the International Conventions Center in Jerusalem on 7:30pm. Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to attend as well.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog and Rabbi Eli Sadan will receive the lifetime achievement prize; Prof. Meir Lahav and Prof. Leslie Leiserowitz will receive the prize for chemistry and physics; Prof. Eviatar Nevo will receive the prize for life sciences research; Prof. Edit Doron will receive the prize for linguistics; Prof. David Dean Shulman will receive the prize for religious studies and philosophy; Prof. Yohanan Friedmann will receive the prize for Near Eastern studies; Prof. Yossi Katz will receive the prize for geography, archaeology, and Land of Israel studies; musician and composer Nurit Hirsh will receive the prize for Hebrew songs and folk art; and Hadas Ophrat will receive the prize for performing arts: theater and dance.
Starting at around 9:40am, the Israel Air Force will conduct a fly-over an an air show consisting of several types of planes and helicopters, which will travel the length of the country as a solute to Israel and its citizens.
The flyover will include Beechcraft surveillance planes, Hercules cargo planes, C-130s, air-to-air refueling vehicles, various types of F-16s, and F-15s, alongside attack helicopters.
The IAF aircraft will fly over 45 cities across Israel, taking off from Ramat David Air Force Base in the Jezreel Valley at 9:40am. The fly-over will arrive in Haifa at around 9:50am, fly over Tel Nof at around 11:55am, and reach Tel Aviv by 12:10pm. The planes will finish their grand tour around Israel by flying over Sacher Park in Jerusalem at 2pm.
A separate fly-over in southern Israel will begin at 11:25am. Three Fighting Falcon F-16 A/B aircraft and three Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master planes will fly over Eilat, Yotvata, Sde Boker, Mitzpe Ramon, and Tze'elim, among many other communities.
Naval forces based in Eilat will launch a flotilla consisting of various Israeli naval vessels, including missile boats, swift boats, and patrol boats. The floatilla will begin at 9:30am on the north shore and travel down to the south shore.
The IDF will also open various air force, navy, and infantry bases to the public.
The Horon base in the Samaria region of the West Bank will be open from 9am to 4pm. The base will have an exhibition of a wide range of IDF vehicles, including tanks and engineering vehicles; a demonstration of the camouflage techniques used by the Nitzan field intelligence battalion; an exhibition of different types of weapons and dogs from the Oketz unit; and a firefighting demonstration.
The Natan base in Be'er Sheva will be open to the public from 9am to 3pm. The base will have an exhibition of different IDF vehicles and weapons used by the various units in the Southern Command.
The Yad La-Shiryon memorial site in Latrun will be open from 8:30am to 5pm. Ground Forces troops will put on a demonstration featuring the tank division, artillery division, combat engineers, field intelligence, the infantry division, and the paratroopers. The demonstration will also include the presentation of a variety of weapons and soldiers will be on hand to give talks in both Hebrew and English.
The Ramat David Air Force base will be open to the public from 9am to 1pm. Visitors could enjoy a fly-over featuring planes stationed at the base and the aerobatics corps of the Israeli Air Force. Various air force weaponry and search and rescue equipment will be put on display, and the Air Force Band is set perform.
Other bases open to the public on Independence Day include the Uvdah airbase, the Tel Nof airbase, and the Israel Air Force Museum in Hatzerim.
Entrance to IDF bases requires a valid Israeli ID and includes a security check. Outside weapons and animals are not permitted inside the bases. Barbeques, campfires, and outside food are prohibited on the grounds of the Air Force Museum.