Lapid boycotting state Independence Day event; Israelis dispirited by division, celebrating abroad

The decision “leads to more unnecessary hatred among us,” said Culture Minister Miki Zohar in response. A group of Israeli women will be celebrating abroad to “get away from it all.”

By World Israel News Staff

Opposition leader Yair lapid announced Wednesday that he has refused the government’s official invitation to the traditional torch-lighting ceremony and Independence Day celebration on Mount Herzl next week due to his fury over its judicial reform plans.

“We won’t pretend that we are celebrating together and that everything is OK while the government is tearing the nation apart and erasing democracy,” he declared in response to the invitation sent both to him and National Unity party head Benny Gantz by Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who is in charge of the event.

“You have left me no choice,” he wrote in his response. “I love the State of Israel with all my heart but in three months you have divided Israeli society, and no fake fireworks performance will cover that up. If national unity is so important to you, you would not be dismantling our democracy and instead you’d be going to work for Israel’s citizens.”

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“We will not sit there to watch another embarrassing show of flattery for the Netanyahu family,” he added.

Regev had called earlier in the day for unity on Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims on Tuesday and the Independence Day festivities the following day.

“I know there are disputes, criticisms, I ask everyone to put everything aside for three days in the State of Israel,” she said. “At the independence ceremony we will put aside all the arguments between us and unite around our wonderful country. We can put the arguments aside and come and salute the State of Israel for our wonderful achievements.”

In answer to a reporter’s question earlier in the week, Lapid refused to call on his followers to refrain from protesting against the government during the state ceremonies, saying, “I said that first of all I want to hear a call to stop the violence against the demonstrators.”

In reaction, Culture Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) tweeted, “Lapid’s decision not to show up for the torch-lighting ceremony deepens the rift [in society] and leads to more unnecessary hatred among us.”

Some Israeli lay people have become dispirited by the intense political acrimony and disunity, especially at this time of year.

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Mimi Buchsbaum, a student and mother of two, told World Israel News that she’s leaving Israel next week for a few days because of all the hate, which she says is just too depressing. She also expects to see more hateful outbursts, such as what happened on Tuesday, Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Likud MK Boaz Bizmuth was shouted down in Tel Aviv and prevented from speaking about the solemn occasion, despite his pleas for unity.

“I love Yom Ha’atzma’ut [Independence Day],” she said. “But never have I seen anything like this. I’m going with some friends to Milan for three nights to get away from it all.

“We’ll celebrate abroad – I can’t imagine ignoring Yom Hazikaron [Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims] and Yom Ha’atzma’ut. We’ll light candles for Yom Hazikaron and talk about it. On Yom Ha’atzma’ut, we’ll try to find a celebration in the city, and if we can’t, then we’ll  go out for a nice dinner and sing and dance in our hotel room.

“I love my country, but I just don’t want to see what’s going to happen here. I don’t want to see it. Neither do my friends.”

Late last month, National Unity MK Hili Tropper initiated a letter that was signed by over 90 MKs calling “to avoid bringing the political debate into the cemeteries and the days that are holy to the Israeli identity.”

Mentioning specifically Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, the letter said that the “pain of the families…do not belong to the Right or the Left, to supporters or opposers of the government, they are everyone’s days…for all of us together. They are days that remind us for whom and for what we dream, create, and yes – sometimes fight.

“The [judicial reform] dispute is legitimate, but if we lose this beacon of Israeli partnership, if we turn off its light, the storm may drown us all,” the letter added.

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz endorsed the missive’s sentiments and will be attending the torch-lighting ceremony, despite his firm opposition to the government.