Israel celebrates its 71st Independence Day with an aerial salute and a ceremony honoring outstanding soldiers.
By David Isaac, World Israel News
Ceremonies marking Israel’s 71st Independence Day kicked off on Wednesday night with the traditional torch lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem and fireworks throughout the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, attended the main event on Mt. Herzl. Their special guests included were 50 residents from the area near the Gaza Strip, which had come under rocket fire, and former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, among others.
The precisely timed ceremony enjoyed a sparkling moment from the South African-born philanthropist and businessman Morris Kahn, who instead of reading from his scripted lines, decided to give off-the-cuff remarks in which he announced that he would contribute to a second attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon. Mr. Kahn was the main funder of the first attempt which crashed on the lunar surface.
The organizers eventually turned off Mr. Kahn’s microphone, but his impromptu speech was well received by the crowd, which appeared ready to hear more.
On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi attended a ceremony awarding medals of excellence to 120 male and female soldiers chosen by their commanders for exceptional service to the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel.
The president said at the ceremony, “The Israeli spirit in my eyes is that there’s nothing that’s not impossible. I was born 10 years before the establishment of the state, and already then there were difficult times. The creation of the IDF became an opportunity to create Uzi [sub-machine guns], Merkava [tanks], airplanes, industry and economy and cyber. We develop everything.”
“Already for years now, we do the impossible and overcome together all the difficulties, building a Jewish and democratic home – democratic and Jewish – in the Land of our Fathers. Today we celebrate doubly because Independence Day falls on May 9, in which we also celebrate the Victory Day over Nazi Germany.”
In praising the soldiers present, Lt. Gen. Kochavi said, “Merit involves and begins with the most basic of things – basic battle conduct, the organization of a post, constant practice and in persistence in every mission. Every one of these outstanding soldiers is a pioneer in his field, each one of you moves the camp a small step forward.”
Also on Thursday morning, the Israel Air Force launched its traditional flight to salute the State of Israel and its citizens.
The aerial salute will pass over dozens of cities and towns, as well as performing air shows over air force bases open to the general public. Israeli police helicopters and fire-fighting planes will also join the mass flyover.
This year, the festive flight will make a special detour to honor southern residents, who endured a weekend long rocket attack from Gaza-based terrorist groups.