Chief Rabbi David Lau led the evening service and festive Hallel prayers at the Western Wall, to which thousands sang and danced, waving Israeli flags.
By Aryeh Savir, TPS
Israel kicked off its Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day, celebrations on Wednesday evening, making the almost impossible transition from marking its Memorial Day for the IDF’s fallen soldiers and the Israeli victims of terrorism to celebrating its independence.
Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, ended on Wednesday evening with the national torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that ushered in the 74th anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoram Yair (Yaya), Yael Scherer, Lt.-Col. (res.) Munir Madi,. Elizaveta Sherstuk, Uri Banki, Judge Mika Banki, Idan Kleiman, Asael Shabo, Kalman Samuels, Dr. Simcha Gethon, Angel Alon, Lt. Hadar Cohen, Rita Yahan-Farouz, known as Rita, and the commander of the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit were honored with lighting the celebratory torches torch during the ceremony, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy told the honorees during a special event on Monday that they “serve as an inspiration and as role models for Israeli society, and no one is more suited than you to usher the Israeli people from the sanctity of the grief of Memorial Day to the joy of Independence Day, on which we will celebrate our sovereignty and achievements.”
“You also represent the mosaic that is Israeli society – Jew and non-Jews, religious and secular, young and old, sabras (Jews born in Israel) and new immigrants, the center and the periphery – you are the beautiful Israel; the essence of Israeliness that proudly leads Israeli society with its head held high. You are an inspiration to many of us,” he told them.
Partying took place across the country, with concerts and other performances scheduled through the night. In major cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the streets were packed.
Celebrations during the day include a reception at the President’s residence honoring 120 excelling IDF soldiers, the International Bible Contest and the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem.
After two years of COVID-19, the IDF has opened its bases to the public. The Israeli Air Force held a special flyover across the country, which for the first time included Hebron and Judea and Samaria, and the navy held a celebratory sail along Israel’s coast.
The prevalent public display of celebration is the traditional Yom Ha’atzmaut picnics and barbecues.
Similarly, Independence Day has the status of a minor Jewish holiday on which the Hallel songs of praise from the book of Psalms are recited and joyous prayers are held to thank God for the miracle that is the Jewish state. At the Western Wall on Wednesday night, Chief Rabbi David Lau led the evening service and festive Hallel prayers, to which thousands sang and danced, waving Israeli flags.
World Israel News contributed to this report.