Israel is winning the war against the coronavirus and its scaled back Independence Day celebrations helped prevent a flare up in contagion as the country prepares to reopen.
By United with Israel Staff and AP
Israelis celebrated Independence Day in an unprecedented manner this year, observing a lockdown and curfew to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.
The national holiday, which honors the creation of Israel in 1948, is usually a festive occasion, with people heading to the beach, hosting barbecues and watching fireworks.
This year, however, Israelis made do with family-only celebrations at home and videos of the air force’s annual fly-by, which served as a tribute to health workers and included four planes crisscrossing the nation and performing aerial acrobatics over hospitals and medical centers.
The scaled back celebrations are a prelude to the nation reopening, including pre-schools and first through third graders preparing to return to school next week.
Most businesses, barring enclosed malls and outdoor markets, have also been given the green light to reopen, provided they meet regulations on social distancing and hygiene. While people are required to wear masks in public places, the percentage of employees permitted to return to their workplaces has also been increased.
On Independence Day, President Reuven Rivlin hosted an annual televised event in which the president usually presents awards to soldiers. This year, the awards ceremony was postponed and the event was reconfigured as an online, star-studded tribute to medical workers and security forces, with performances by famous musicians and comedians but no live audience.
In a video message, Rivlin thanked Israelis for their “resilience.”
“I wish us all a happy and healthy year in which we can enjoy every moment of Israeli normality that we all miss so much,” he said.
Wednesday is also the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau, a Nazi death camp. In honor of the occasion, the orchestras of the Israeli military and the U.S. Navy’s European command played the Israeli national anthem for Abba Naor, a Holocaust survivor in his 90s who lives in Israel.
The performance was made via a Zoom call, with each musician and the two conductors performing remotely. Naor, calling in from his home, stood for the national anthem and then thanked U.S. forces for liberating the camp and saving his life.
Israel has reported more than 15,700 cases and at least 212 deaths from the coronavirus. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, but can cause severe illness or death, particularly in elderly patients and those with underlying health problems.