Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein (C) with the torch lighters (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset torch lighters

“You have been lighting torches for many years, in your lives… you have illuminated the State of Israel with a great light that will burn for many years after the torches of the ceremony are extinguished,” Knesset Speaker Edelstein told the torch lighters.

By: United with Israel Staff

The outstanding individuals who have been chosen to light torches at Israel’s 70th Independence Day ceremony on Wednesday arrived at the Knesset on Sunday to attend a special reception in their honor.

“You have been lighting torches for many years, in your lives… In your songs, in your discoveries, in your lives, you have illuminated the State of Israel with a great light that will burn for many years after the torches of the ceremony are extinguished,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told the torch lighters, who were presented with the Knesset Medal and bibles which the Knesset printed especially for the 70th anniversary celebrations.

The special bible, Edelstein said, “symbolizes more than anything the values of this year’s celebrations: ‘A tradition of innovation.’ The words in the bible are ancient, but the ideas in it are among the boldest and most original to have ever been written down.”

On the cover of the bible, Edelstein noted, the Knesset chose to inscribe a famous verse from Zechariah’s prophecy: “Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.”

“From the window in this room we can see how Zechariah’s vision was realized in Jerusalem. I have no doubt that all of your visions… will also be realized,” Edelstein declared.

Culture and Sport Minister MK Miri Regev and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also attended the reception.

The dignitaries who were honored with lighting a torch during the ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem in which Israel commences annual Independence Day celebrations are selected for their outstanding contributions to the country and Israeli society. It is considered one of Israel’s highest honors.

The torch-lighters usually number 12, equal to the the number of Israel’s tribes in the bible. This year, there will be 13, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will light on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the establishment of the state and will also give a brief speech on the Declaration of Independence.

The honorees include singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, veteran actor Leah Koenig, IDF General (Res.) Yeshayahu (Shaike) Gavish, paralympic gold medalist Captain (Res.) Noam Gershony, Racheli Ganot, CEO of Rachip, a high-tech company that integrates ultra-Orthodox women into the workforce, comedian and movie actor Ze’ev Revach, Bible expert and linguist Avshalom Kor, Margalit Zinati, the 86-year-old sole Jewish resident of the Druze village of Peki’in in the Galilee, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community, Marcelle Machluf, an award-winning biotechnologist at Haifa’s Technion University, Mathematician Aviezri Fraenkel, who in 2007 was awarded an Israel Prize for his work on combinatorial game theory, and hearing-impaired 15-year-old schoolgirl May Korman, who patented an invention to prevent children from being forgotten in cars.