Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Israel Opens 70th Independence Day Festivities With Jerusalem Extravaganza

Israel opens 70th Independence Day festivities with Jerusalem extravaganza

Israel abruptly crossed over from grief to jubilation at nightfall Wednesday, as Memorial Day came to a close and the country’s 70th Independence Day began.
Mournful and somber speeches gave way to fireworks, concerts and parties across the country, with flags promptly raised back from half-staff.
At the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the transition was marked with an extravagant state ceremony featuring speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the lighting of 12 torches by people who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society — as well as one by Netanyahu himself, and another by Edelstein — and much singing and dancing.

The ceremony featured an elaborate musical flashback of Jewish history, with actors singing and dancing through events dating back to the biblical era.
In one scene representing the Holocaust era, child actors dressed in clothing badged with yellow stars quickly gathered their belongings as Nazi soldiers could be heard marching with barking dogs in the background.
A later scene showed pioneers arriving Israel, and young workers beginning the construction of the revived Jewish state.
The scenes were notable for featuring a diverse range of performers, representing Jews of European, Middle Eastern and African origin.

Netanyahu lit a torch after a fiery speech in which he declared that Israel is turning into a rising world power.
Addressing adversaries of the Jewish state, Netanyahu proudly stated that “in another 70 years, you’ll find here a country that is 70 times stronger because what we’ve done until today is just the beginning!”
He thanked US President Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the holy city. Calling the relationship with the United States a historic one,” Netanyahu says: “Thank you President Trump! Thank you America!”
Netanyahu said “admiration for Israel” was finally beginning to be felt in the Arab world. and that Israel stretched out its hand in peace to those neighbors that seek peace.
If required to do so, Israel will always rise to meet the challenge of defending itself against its enemies, he said. The capacity to defend itself, by itself, said Netanyahu, is “the essence” of independence.
After Edelstein and Netanyahu lit their torches, 14 others were honored in lighting the remaining 12 torches — which symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible.

After the playing of “Hatikvah,” the national anthem, the ceremony ended with Israelis and flag-waving supporters of Israel at 32 locations worldwide singing “Hallelujah” — not the Leonard Cohen song, but the tune with which Israel won the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest, followed by more dancing and fireworks.
The juxtaposition of Memorial Day and Independence Day is a key element of Israelis’ experience of their country’s anniversary, ensuring that no commemoration completely excludes the achievement wrought by the sacrifice of the fallen and their families, and that the elation of independence is never far removed from an awareness of its cost.
The sudden switch is often seen as a difficult transition for bereaved families.

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