Israelis celebrate Independence Day as anti-Semitism spikes around the world and Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons
The Israeli Air Force crosses all of Israel from north to south, in honor of the country's 63rd Independence Day. (Photo: IDF/Wikimedia Commons)
Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut, begins with an emotional transition from the sullenness of Memorial Day, remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers, to a joyful celebration of freedom.
Independence Day begins at sundown immediately following Memorial Day. This year marks Israel’s 71st birthday since declaring statehood in 1948. In Israel, the day is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar, on the fifth of the Hebrew month of Iyar. If 5 Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, as it does this year, then Independence Day is celebrated on the preceding Thursday. David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence on Friday, May 14, 1948, so around the world, most nations recognize Israel’s Independence day as May 14.
The Independence Day celebrations begin with a state ceremony at Mount Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery. The country then erupts with events, parties, concerts and fireworks shows. The following day is famous for nationwide barbecues, al ha-esh (on the fire) and nary a spot in any park is unoccupied by an Israeli family picnicking and partying all day long.
The Israel Air Forces also regales the nation with flyovers of its fleet. F-15, F-16, F-16I and F-35 fighter jets, the Lavi training aircraft, C-130 and C-130J cargo planes, the Boeing refueling plane; Black Hawk, Sea Stallion, Panther and Apache helicopters were scheduled to take part in the flyby.
Prior to the festivities, fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism were honored in a ceremony following a two-minute siren nationwide in their memory at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Immediately after the siren was sounded, the main national ceremony in the honor of the fallen began at the Israeli military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Israel’s chief of police Motti Cohen were among the senior Israeli officials in attendance.
“We will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said during the ceremony.
Iran’s threats to annihilate Israel and its attempts to build nuclear weapons are considered one of the country’s most serious security threats. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to abandon his country’s commitments to scale back nuclear weapon production if world powers did not protect it from U.S. sanctions.
Israel was founded as a Jewish state and initially became a refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Today 45 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel. But Iran’s threats, rising anti-Semitism around the world and attacks on Jews in Europe and America has made this year’s celebrations all the more poignant.
As it reaches its 71st birthday, Israel’s population has grown by 2 percent over last year. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics
as of May 2019, Israel’s population has for the first time surpassed 9 million people.
Israelis are proud to be, well, Israeli. Some 82 percent of Israelis are happy with country’s achievement and more than 80 percent of Israelis say the country’s achievements outweigh its failures.
According to William Cubbison, a researcher with IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, Israel’s outlook is optimistic now, but the future looks more grim.
“The past decade and a half has seen a significant rise in positive assessments of the country’s overall situation,” said Cubbison. “But, when looking ahead towards the future, Israelis are less optimistic: large gaps exist between Arab and Jewish Israelis and between Right and Left, both with regard to their pride in being Israeli, and on the future of the state.”
We remember 23,741 soldiers and our fallen from the Messianic Community
Today, May 8, 2019, is Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron), and the nation of Israel remembers the 23,741 soldiers who have been killed in battle and 3,150 victims of terrorist attacks. Since last year, 95 soldiers and 16 terror victims have sadly been added.
We remember and pray.
As the believing community in Israel, we also remember our fallen sons and daughters from the Messianic Community. Please read this article that Kehila News published last Memorial day.
Israelis mark Memorial Day with fresh round of victims from weekend attacks
Israeli soldiers stand at attention by the Israeli flag at half mast during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem's Old City, April 30, 2017, as Israel commemorates its fallen soldiers. (Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
As the sirens sound in Israel on the eve and morning of Memorial Day, Israelis will remember the nation’s fallen including, poignantly, the four civilians who lost their lives this week during rocket attacks against the country.
Hamas pummeled Israel with nearly 700 rockets in less than a 48-hour period this weekend killing:
Moshe Agadi, 58
Zaid al-Hamamdeh, 44
Moshe Feder, 64
Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21
Among these victims are two secular Jews, an Orthodox Jew and a Bedouin Israeli Arab. All were fathers.
In a somber moment, Israelis bow their heads in silence for one minute to pay tribute to fallen soldiers and terror victims on the eve of Yom HaZicharon. Sirens blare at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night for one full minute signaling the onset of the day and then again on Wednesday morning. The nation comes to a temporary halt and even drivers will stop their cars and stand outside their vehicles in prayer during the duration of the siren.
Most establishments will be closed on Wednesday morning and Israeli television goes off the air during for 24 hours except to air documentaries about Israel’s wars.
This year Israel mourns 23,741 soldiers who died since 1948 defending the country, 95 of whom were added this year. The number of terror victims is 3,150. Sixteen names were added to that list this year.
Israeli officials made condolence calls to the families of the four victims this week. President Reuven Rivlin visited three of the four families including the Arab family who lost a son and father earlier this week in the rocket barrage.
“You don’t know what it means to me that you came here,” Zaid Al-Hamamdeh’s son reportedly told the president. Rivlin replied, “Why wouldn’t I come? Aren’t you an Israeli citizen?”
Al-Hamamdeh was a truck driver. He was killed when a Hamas rocket slammed into the factory where he worked in the southern Israel coastal city of Ashkelon.
Rivlin said he does “everything I can to visit all Israelis who are in such terrible grief from terrorist attacks.”
“We, the tribes of Israel, are together in good times and bad, in hope and in difficulty, regardless of which tribe we are from,” he said. “Ultra-Orthodox, secular, religious and traditional, Jews and Arabs – terror strikes us all without discrimination and without mercy and we will never surrender to it.”
At a ceremony on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring home the bodies of troops who went missing in battle.
“We are not eager for battle but we know our willingness to sacrifice is the guarantor of our fate,” Netanyahu said. “We will always remember — the fate of our country is hanging in the balance. And without our loved ones who perished, the country would have perished.”
Netanyahu lost his brother Yoni during the 1976 Entebbe Operation to free Israeli hostages in Uganda.
After 600 rockets and four dead, Israel reaches (temporary) ceasefire with Hamas
After two days in which more than 600 rockets were fired at Israel killing four people, Israel agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip — a decision not welcomed by many Israelis who have lived through several deadly cycles of rocket barrages in the past decade.
The ceasefire was agreed to after Israel threatened to cut off fuel supplies into Gaza and just as Muslims began Ramadan, the month of daylong fasting and nighttime feasts.
Many Israelis, especially residents of the South, know this pattern all too well. Past truces were fragile and usually crumble after just a few weeks or months. It doesn’t take much to trigger a single rocket or another rocket barrage from the Palestinians. This latest one, which began on Saturday, is the second deadly barrage in just a few months.
“The ceasefire, given the circumstances under which it was reached, lacks achievements for Israel,” said Gidon Saar, a Likud minister. “The time ranges between the rounds of violent attacks on Israel and its citizens are getting shorter, and the terrorist organizations in Gaza use the periods in between to get stronger. The campaign has not been prevented, but postponed.”
The truce agreement, brokered by Egypt and Qatar, requires Israel to ease its blockade of goods in the Gaza Strip and limits on Gaza’s fishing zone to 12 nautical miles off the coast plus make improvements to Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
While Israelis are not interested in war, they are interested in security. The residents of the south feel abandoned to political decisions that leave them as the victims in this lethal game of chicken. They are weary of having to run to shelters.
“In a month, in two weeks, in a month and a half, it will all happen again – we achieved nothing,” said Haim Cohen, 69, from Ashdod. “I think Israel needs to strike them very, very hard so that they learn their lesson.”
The Israeli military struck 350 militant targets during this escalation and assassinated an individual believed to have been Iran’s money man in the Gaza Strip. Nine militants and the same number of Palestinian civilians, including two children, were killed. It was the worst violence between the two sides since a 50-day war in 2014.
Since Israel pulled its Jewish citizens out of Gaza in 2005 and gave complete control of the coastal enclave over the the Palestinians, Hamas has been launching rockets at Israel. In the past year there have been eight rounds of fighting, some lasting little more than a day. Broader wars occurred in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014.
But the real Gaza showdown is just around the corner, according to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi who believes that a military campaign will likely take place later this summer.
Kochavi is also intentionally redefining these events. He called the latest attacks the “days of battle” rather than the usual “rounds of violence.” He calls Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror “armies” rather than “organizations.”
Ultimately, Hamas is driven more by hatred of Israel than by wanting to help their own people who are living in squalid conditions of extreme poverty and utter hopelessness. Basically this means the fighting won’t stop outside of divine intervention.
Meanwhile, Israel has learned that giving away land did not bring peace and until now, they have been unable to stop the cycle of violence.
Christians respond to latest Gaza escalation
An ICEJ delegation visited Israeli communities along the Gaza border area on Monday and spoke with Tamir Idan, mayor of the Sadot Regional Council (pictured center), about how Christians can best help them prepare for any future rocket escalations from Gaza. (ICEJ Photo)
ICEJ Donating Another Three Bomb Shelters, Protective Vests
After Israel absorbed over 700 rockets fired from Gaza over the weekend, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem sent a delegation to the western Negev region on Monday to assess the updated security needs of the local Israeli communities and how best to help them prepare for any future escalations in the area.
The Christian Embassy has already donated over 75 portable bomb shelters to the Gaza periphery towns and villages, and today the ICEJ ordered another three bomb shelters for the region. The ICEJ also is donating 20 protective vests for Yatar volunteers from the Negev who risk their lives working alongside the regular security forces to keep everyone safe during times of tension. In addition, the ICEJ delegation viewed all-terrain firefighting equipment as well as brand new specially-designed ATV security vehicles which Christians have recently donated to local Israeli communities through ICEJ.
“Hopefully, the ceasefire reached last night will hold, but the terror militias in Gaza are notoriously unpredictable and untrustworthy,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “However, our team’s visit today has confirmed once more that our humanitarian investment in these vulnerable Israeli communities is comforting families and saving lives.”
Elan Isaacson, chief security officer for the Eshkol Region, told the ICEJ team that, “after 18 years of experience and all the bomb shelters which groups like you have placed around the region, the number of people killed and injured from the Gaza rockets is substantially down.”
Tamir Idan, mayor of the Sadot Regional Council, also hosted the ICEJ team in Kibbutz Alumim before heading off to an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the latest escalation in rocket fire from Gaza.
This article is a press release by the ICEJ and is reposted with permission.