Tags: Isrsel | birthday | state.Arabs

Israelis Celebrate Independence Day

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 08:45 AM EDT

JERUSALEM - Hundreds of thousands of Israelis visited Israel’s national parks, forests and beaches on Tuesday, celebrating Independence Day.

Israelis were hiking, bathing and having the traditional barbecue to celebrate Israel’s 62nd year of independence. Thousands also enjoyed the military’s aerial and naval demonstrations throughout the morning and afternoon.

In Jerusalem, President Shimon Peres honored this year’s outstanding soldiers, calling them a “wonderful portrait of the Israeli people.”

“I look at you and see you carrying on your backs over two thousand years of pogroms and blood, of triumphs and achievements, of pain and joy, of tearful eyes and hopeful hearts,” Peres told the assembled soldiers at his residence, in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. “And as one who was present on Israel’s first day of independence, and has lived its history ever since, I am proud to say a prayer of thanks.”

Celebrations were launched Monday night with the traditional torch-lighting ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, this year entitled, 'If you will it, it is no dream,' the famous line written by Zionism founder Theodor Herzl, born 150 years ago.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin addressed the public, hailing Herzl and extolling his role in the birth of Zionism. "Israel's salvation didn't come from prophets or diplomats, but from those who had the courage to stop dreaming and start fulfilling," he said.

Rivlin touched upon life in Jerusalem and warned of gaps in society.

"Specifically at a time of cultural openness, we are witness today to a dangerous process of intensifying fortification of every group within its four walls," he said.

"This fortification brings with it not only cultural or political polarization, but also fatal segregation in everyday life. For example, look what Jerusalem has turned into in the last decade: separate neighborhoods, separate public transport, separate shopping centers for haredi and secular [residents], Arabs and Jews. Ghettos and more ghettos, separated by walls of alienation, not by walls of cement."

Before lighting the first torch, the speaker said that the Jerusalem reality was a far cry from the vision for "the city that was bound together" - a reference to the biblical Psalm 122. He said fear for the "other," whether Arab or Haredi, was "contrary to the very essence of Zionism."

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010 08:45 AM
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