Celebrations for Israel's 71st Independence Day began at Jerusalem's Mt Herzl with the traditional Torch-Lighting Ceremony. IDF bands and flag bearers marched across the parade grounds forming Israel related symbols in highly choreographed fashion.
The ceremony began with the Yizkor prayer recited by Shimon Baumel, brother of Zechariah Baumel whose remains were only recently repatriated to Israel 37 years after disappearing in battle in Lebanon.
Eden Alona, Shlomi Shabbat and Shiri Maimon sang Israeli classics and the Shalva Band sang Talking Bird with Ethnix's Ze'ev Nechama.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Adelstein addressed the audience: "Independence Day 71 is a good opportunity to open old photo albums and recall who we are, where we came from and what is our story. Some nations are blessed with large territory, others have natural resources, others with large populations, and what do we have? We have a tale of a nation of slaves that became free and brought the world hope for freedom."
Adelstein lit the first of the 12 torches, followed by philanthropist Morris Kahn and Kfir Damari, who were behind the recent historic launch of SpaceIL's spacecraft, which ultimately failed to make a controlled landing on the moon. Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh lit a torch on behalf of the Jewish Diaspora.
Kahn told the audience that following the craft's failed landing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to help fund a second attempt and he said he will consider it, "now I am responding, the answer is yes," he exclaimed.
Another torch was lit by Mari Nahmias, a Holocaust survivor and mother of eight who was also a foster mother to 52 children.
The last torch was kindled by Rachel Frankel, Bat Galim Sha'er and Iris Yifrach, the mothers of Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha'er and Eyal Yifrach who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank in 2014.
Despite a tradition that the prime minster does not attend the event, Netanyahu was present for the second year in a row, together with his wife Sara. However, he did not deliver a speech as he did in 2018, but a recorded salutation was broadcast.
Netanyahu invited 50 residents from the Gaza region, Holocaust survivor Shaul Lubowitz, the Fogel family which suffered a horrific terrorist attack and Moshe Holtzberg who was rescued by his nanny during the 2008 terrorist attack at the local Chabad House where he lost both his parents. The former Paraguayan president Horatio Cartes was also a guest.