Israel rings in Independence Day, though with curtailed activities

Israel’s Independence Day was marked by some key events, though in a toned-down format. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s 72nd Independence Day was celebrated in unusual tranquility on Wednesday. The normally boisterous holiday, marked by barbecues, large city-sponsored concerts and the bopping of heads with inflatable balloon hammers (don’t ask), passed peacefully, as a coronavirus curfew had been in place to prevent all of the above.

The government reimposed the curfew on Tuesday afternoon, which prevented people from going 100 meters beyond their homes, to avoid a resurgence of the disease that has infected over 15,000 and killed over 200. Israel experienced its first spike of the disease after the Purim holiday in March and wants to avoid a repetition. Ahead of Independence Day, police set up 40 checkpoints across the country.

A few key traditional events to celebrate Israel’s birth did take place, although curtailed in comparison to past years. On Tuesday evening, the holiday kicked off with a torch-lighting ceremony on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. The event, pre-recorded this year, featured a speech by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who in his role as speaker of the Knesset presided over the ceremony.

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The torch-lighting ceremony honors Israelis for their outstanding contributions to society. This year, entertainers, medical personnel and those who help the less fortunate, as well as those who connect Diaspora and Israeli Jewry, were honored. Each gave a heartfelt speech before lighting a torch.

Some municipalities, such as Ramat Gan, sent out mobile stages blasting music as they traveled through the streets. The city also created a light show using drones.

Ramat Gan lightshow

Ramat Gan drones spell 72 Credit: Associated Press

On Wednesday, the traditional flyover, which normally features a parade of Israel’s military air power along its entire coast from North to South – with beaches filled to bursting to watch the annual flyby – did not take place. However, a subdued flyover of four stunt planes saluted Israel’s medical teams on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

The planes flew over 27 hospitals throughout the country from Haifa to Eilat. Given the stillness of the day, with no cars on the road, the four small propeller planes could be distinctly heard for miles.

While some have criticized even the much-reduced flyover as an unnecessary expense, those complaints appeared miserly given that the event clearly uplifted the spirits of the medical personnel who gathered on the hospital rooftops to watch.

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The Israel Air Force said no additional expense was involved as the flyby is part of pilot training.