by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
The People of Israel, born more than 3,500 years ago, began celebrating their modern countryâ€™s 61st year of independence Tuesday night. Celebrations began immediately after Israel concluded Remembrance Day for thousands who gave up their lives for the nearly six million Jews living in the Jewish state today.
Twelve torches were lit at Har Herzl in Jerusalem at the annual ceremony marking the end of Remembrance Day and the beginning of Independence Day. The honorees who lit the torches are from Tel Aviv, whose 100th anniversary this year is the theme of Israelâ€™s 61st year as a modern state.
Shlomo Lahat, who was the mayor of Tel Aviv for 20 years and is a retired major general in the IDF, lit the first torch in honor of the cityâ€™s residents.
Renowned Tel Aviv cantor (chazan) Rabbi Avraham Chan Adler lit the second torch “in honor of those who preserved the traditions of Jewish prayer and poetry in all of Israel’s denominations and for the bond between the first Hebraic city and its Jewish roots.” %ad%
The other torches were lit by artist Leah Mejaro-Mintz, biophysics Professor Menachem Guttman, of the Tel Aviv University and son of famed writer and artist Nahum Guttman, businessman Yair Rotlevi, historian Shula Vidrich, actress Yevgenia Dodina, radio personality Amikam Gurevitch, philanthropist Nazarian Joseph Vince, musician and author Kobi Oz, IDF Lt. Col. Oren Cohen and two youth, Michal Meron and Angelica Yoavov.
Greetings to the Diaspora
In his Independence Day statement to Jews around the world, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, â€œEach year that we mark the rebirth of the Jewish state after long centuries of exile is a great cause for celebration. After centuries of powerlessness, the Jewish people returned to the stage of history and to their rightful place among the nations.
â€œThe past 61 years show just what a free and independent Jewish nation can achieve. With scarce resources, we brought a barren land back to life and absorbed millions of immigrantsâ€¦.
All this has been achieved even though Israel has lived under constant threat for 61 years. Unfortunately, Israel remains under threatâ€¦. It is vital that we continue to strengthen the bonds between Israel and the Diaspora. These bonds are a source of mutual strength and a powerful reminder of the unique role that Israel plays in the world and in the history of our people.
President Peres told the Diaspora that Independence Day is â€œa time to consolidate and strengthen the bonds that link the State of Israel and the Jewish Communities abroad, for we are one people with a common heritage, united in times of joy and united in darker hours.â€
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