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Israel celebrates 74th Independence day

Israel celebrates 74th Independence day with flyovers, barbecues and a Bible quiz

Bennett hails Israeli spirit to overcome adversity as tens of thousands flock to parks and nature reserves; IDF bases reopen for visits after coronavirus hiatus

Source: Times of Israel

Israelis were hitting parks, beaches, nature sites, and other open spaces for barbecues and other festivities on Thursday as the country celebrates its 74th Independence Day.

In an annual highlight on Thursday morning and early afternoon, Air Force aircraft were flying over much of the country, a popular and iconic feature of celebrations.

The flyover includes F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter jets; Lavi training aircraft; C-130 cargo planes; a Boeing refueling plane; Black Hawk, Sea Stallion, Panther and Apache helicopters; and Israel Aerospace Industries Heron drones. It will be the first time IAI drones participate in the flyover.

This year, the military added a flyby over the West Bank city of Hebron and the adjacent settlement of Kiryat Arba. It marks the first time the flyby passes over that particular area, but not the first time for all West Bank communities. The IDF said the move was not a political statement, but related to the size of the community.

Other events Thursday include the annual International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem, which will see a new host in Ofer Hadad, after longtime stalwart and Hebrew language aficionado Avshalom Kor retired.

This year also sees the IDF return to its annual tradition of opening up major bases to visitors after the events were suspended in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the bases open to the public are the Air Force’s Ramat David base in northern Israel and Tel Nof in the center.

The festivities will be capped by the award ceremony for the 2022 Israel Prize. Among those honored are Prof. Yoram Palti for entrepreneurship and technological innovation and actor, director, and playwright Oded Kotler for theater and dance.

In an English-language message, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hailed the spirit that has transformed Israel from a small nation in the desert into a modern technological leader.

“The story of Israel is a story of hope, a story of human spirit, a story of surviving against all odds. It’s a story of a nation that built something from nothing, a scattered people returning to our ancient homeland,” Bennett said.

“What’s the secret to our strength? It’s our people, our passion, our spirit of Am Yisrael. No matter the horrors we faced, we never lost our hope; No matter who tries to dehumanize us, we never lost our humanity; No matter who tries to destroy us, we’ll never be defeated. We will always prevail,” he said.

Israel transitioned from grave heartache to celebratory joy Wednesday evening, as it ushered in Independence Day with calls for unity, attempting to cut through political disputes that marred solemn events earlier during Memorial Day.

“Right now, between these two days, with the transition that is so tough and so Israeli, we manage but for a moment to truly be one,” Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy said in a keynote address at the main state ceremony marking the start of Independence Day at Mount Herzl.