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Testimonials

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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

At Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Monday evening, a torch lighting ceremony was held that opened the stream of events celebrating Israel’s 69th birthday. Also known as Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut), the annual high spirited celebration traditionally attracts a seemingly infinite number of people from across Israel and beyond.

Each year, Israel commemorates Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut on back to back days on the 4th and 5th days of the Hebrew month of Iyar. Yom HaZikaron is a somber day of reflection and an emotionally charged commemoration of its brave citizens and volunteers who lost their lives in the line of duty; fighting to the defend the Jewish state and its eternal values from an onslaught of enemies. Yom Ha’atzmaut, on the other hand, is a exceptionally joyous event that is marked by a party atmosphere as it is ushered in only minutes after the conclusion of Yom HaZikaron.

Speaking at the Yom Ha’atzmaut torch lighting event was Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu . “Every year the country gets stronger, advances and strengthens its status as a clear world power. Its accomplishments are great in the fields of security, economics, foreign relations, technology, science, culture, and every other field.”

“To youth among us, independence may be perceived as something natural; I say that Israeli independence is not a free gift. Generations of Jews were in exile and we have a home. We are pushing the State of Israel to new heights, and the accomplishments of the past give us great hope for the future,” he said, according to an INN report.

Israelis must preserve national unity despite internal tensions and hatred, said Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the country's parliament, at the ceremony.

"Not everything in our lives is Right or Left," said Edelstein. "Not every right-winger is a rightist fascist, and not every left-winger is a leftist traitor. If we continue down this unacceptable path, we will lead ourselves to factionalism and bring destruction on ourselves."

According to an i24 News report, the speaker dedicated the bulk of his statements to Jerusalem, with 2017 being the 50th anniversary of Israeli sovereignty over the entire city. "This year, all of us, all of us, are Jerusalem!" he asserted.

"Jerusalem is the source of the power and spirit of this people," said Edelstein. "Therefore, today we must preserve the unity of Jerusalem, but no less – we must preserve the unity of Israel."

Among those who participated in the ceremonial torch lighting were, for the first time, two Americans representing the Jewish diaspora. Rabbi Marvin Hier, who delivered remarks at President Donald Trump's inauguration, and Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of the Taglit-Birthright program.

Lighting a torch together, Steinhardt and Hier said that it was “in honor of the partnership among Jews all over the world in the fulfillment of our historic mission. In honor of the generations, that despite all of their suffering, never stopped dreaming of Jerusalem.

“In honor of the educators in Jewish communities, our emissaries in the most important and noble of all pursuits. And in honor of those who combat anti-Semitism, who lead the struggle for human dignity. In the fervent hope that we shall never lose our way or our identity,” they added.

According to a Times of Israel report, Chana Henkin, a trailblazing educator of religious Jewish women, whose son Eitam was murdered by Palestinian gunmen in October 2015 along with his wife, Naama, dedicated the next torch to the scholars.

“I light this torch in honor of the Torah scholars who, in their study, continue the chain of tradition and participate in building the spiritual strength of the State of Israel,” she said.

The Times of Israel report added that Eli Amir, 79, a Baghdad-born author and civil servant who immigrated to Israel in 1950, lit the first torch on behalf of all those who immigrated to Israel from around the globe. Yaakov (Yaki) Hetz, who served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem in 1967, lit the second torch. He dedicated it to the families who lost relatives in Israel’s wars.

Miri Ehrental, 67, who along with her husband, Chaim, founded Zichron Menachem, a children’s cancer support center set up in memory of their son Menachem who died of the disease at the age of 15, lit the third torch on behalf of those who choose to do national service outside the IDF.

The final torch was lit by two soldiers: Ethiopian-born Major Yarus Yerushalayim, 30, who came to Israel when she was 4-years-old and serves in the Education Corps, and Lieutenant Dean Argil, 22, a third-generation Israeli serving in the Paratroopers. His grandfather served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, i24 News reported that scores of spectators gathered across the country to watch the Israeli Airforce display its new F-35 stealth fighter jets, along with other member of the IAF fleet, for an Independence Day flyover.

Three of Israel's five stealth fighters took to the skies along the Mediterranean coast off Tel Aviv as thousands of people gathered at the waterfront to watch.

The F-35s, made by US-based Lockheed Martin, were the highlight of the show, which marked 69 years of Israeli independence.

Israel has received the initial five jets since December with the aim of allowing it to maintain its military superiority in the turbulent Middle East, particularly regarding its arch-foe Iran.

It plans to purchase a total of 50 F-35s. Its first jets are to be operational this year.

While other countries have ordered the planes, Israel — which receives more than $3 billion a year in US defense aid — says it will be the first outside the United States with an operational F-35 squadron.

Israel is buying its first 33 F-35s at an average price of about $110 million (103.5 million euros) each — and the price tag has been criticized both in Israel and elsewhere.

Among its main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.

The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,200 miles per hour (1,900 kilometers per hour).

The pilot's ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of about $400,000 each, includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the visor and is also shared elsewhere.

Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.

Also, on Tuesday, it was reported that the annual Nakba march (Catastrophy Day) that is marked by Arabs who view Israel’s rebirth as the sovereign, independent and autonomous Jewish state as the alleged source of their oppression, was cancelled.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli police claimed that the event was refused due to their inability to provide police presence necessary for a march expected to be attended by 25,000 Palestinians and their supporters, saying that “it’s unfortunate that the organizers decided to conduct the march exactly on the day of Independence Day, when there are hundreds of approved events throughout the country.”

By: Fern Sidman