Fireworks light the Tel Aviv sky on the eve of Israel's 71st Independence Day, May 8, 2019. (Flash90) (Flash90)
71st Independence Day fireworks

The theme for Israel’s 71st anniversary “celebrates the unique Israeli spirit as expressed by the establishment of the State of Israel: overcoming difficulties against all odds.”

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Israel kicked off its Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations on Wednesday evening, making the almost impossible transition from marking its Memorial Day for the IDF’s fallen soldiers and the Israeli victims of terrorism to celebrating its independence.

The theme for Israel’s 71st anniversary is “Saluting the Israeli Spirit.” Chosen by the Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols, the theme “celebrates the unique Israeli spirit as expressed by the establishment of the State of Israel: overcoming difficulties against all odds.”

“The same spirit continues to motivate many Israelis to overcome difficulties, to excel, to succeed, and to transform personal hardship into an engine for activity and growth, inspiring society and contributing to a better Israel,” the Committee’s description explains.

Memorial Day ended before sunset on Wednesday with the national torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem that ushered in the 71st anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Among the 12 honored torchbearers, representing the 12 biblical tribes of Israel, were Dr. Salman Zark, of the Druze village of Peki’in in the north who serves as the director of Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat and who served in the IDF’s Medical Corps for 25 years, as well as the mothers of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel – three teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in the summer of 2014; Paralympian Moran Samuel; wounded IDF Col. Shai Siman-Tov; and Jeffrey Finkelstein, president of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, the city that was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic shooting last year.

“You, each in his or her own unique way, symbolize our Israeli spirit; the Jewish, human and strong spirit of Israeli society which has led the State to great achievements,” Minister of Culture Miri Regev told them in a meeting earlier this week.

Celebrations during the day include a reception at the President’s residence honoring 120 excelling IDF soldiers, the International Bible Contest and the Israel Prize ceremony in Jerusalem.

The IDF opened some of its bases to the public, and the Israeli Air Force held a special flyover across the countr. The prevalent public display of celebration is the traditional Yom Ha’atzmaut picnics and barbecues.

This year, the IAF flyover passed over the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the southern communities as an expression of the IDF’s appreciation to the residents of the south for their steadfastness and resilience.

Similarly, Independence Day has the status of a minor Jewish holiday on which the Hallel prayer is recited and joyous prayers are held at synagogue services to thank God for the miracle that is the Jewish state.