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Gaza war forces major changes to Israeli Independence Day celebrations

Yom Ha'Atzmaut

The state ceremony will be pre-filmed, with traditional torch-lighters honoring groups, not individuals, no fireworks, and references throughout to the ongoing fighting.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The state ceremony marking Israel’s 76th Independence Day next week will be different than any other in the country’s history in recognition of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, Transportation Minister Miri Regev announced Thursday.

In charge for several years already of the official state celebration, Regev said that while it is important for it to occur “like every year,” it is “hard for us to celebrate during a war and when 133 hostages are still in Hamas captivity.”

Since “we don’t know what will happen” regarding the state of the war in Gaza or if an emergency situation will develop in the north against Hezbollah, she said, the way to ensure that the ceremony takes place is to pre-record it.

It will then be screened without an audience.

As a symbol of the nation’s somber mood, there will be no fireworks display, the musical selections will be “adjusted to the spirit of the times,” and there will be references throughout to the war and its human costs, as well as the October 7 invasion and the abductees.

The highlight of the annual event, the honoring of 24 individuals who pair up to light twelve huge torches, will instead honor six groups who represent “the resilience and heroism” of the people of Israel.

The Security Forces beacon will be lit by a representative from the IDF, the Israel Police, the Shabak and Mossad. While the first three rushed to the Gaza border front and fought heroically against the invaders alongside hundreds of their colleagues, the Mossad agent has been intimately connected to operations against Iran, Hamas’ main financial and arms supplier.

The Rescue Forces beacon will honor representatives from Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah, the Fire and Rescue Service, and ZAKA. The men and women of the first three groups rescued and treated thousands of those wounded on October 7. ZAKA volunteers spent months after the assault gathering bodies, body parts and  even the blood of victims so that they could be brought for burial according to Jewish law.

The Rescuers Torch collectively honors civilians who decided to go into the fire instead of staying in the relative safety of their homes. Two of the torchlighters, Rami Davidian and Yousef Alziedana, hurried to the Nova festival in their cars and brought out hundreds and dozens of fleeing revelers, respectively.

Rabbi Shachar Butzchak left his home in Ofakim to defend his city with two other men he met in the street when the gunmen invaded. Nasreen Yosef interrogated terrorists captured in her village of Yated, finding out valuable information that led to the capture of dozens of others.

The Communities’ Emergency Response Teams’ beacon will be lit by two members from the Gazan envelope, one from Samaria and one from the northern border, who have defended and continue to defend their settlements from terrorist incursions.

The Israel Advocacy beacon will be lit by representatives of those who defend Israel on the airwaves and internet: Ella Kenan, a travel blogger and internet influencer who set up a network of tens of thousands of volunteers who defend Israel online, and Yousef Haddad, an Arab Christian journalist who uses social media to tell the truth to millions about Israel.

Finally, the Shield beacon will be lit by three senior members of Israel’s air defense, who were among those who designed the Arrow, Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems that have protected the country’s skies from the short-range rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah and the cruise and ballistic missiles of Iran.

There will also be a new, memorial section of the ceremony, which will be held outside of the traditional Mt. Herzl location.

Twelve beacons will be lit in the Gazan envelope communities where Hamas fighters committed their massacre of 1,200 people, including kibbutzim, cities, an army base and the site of the Supernova dance festival.

The local councils and communities will decide whom they will honor with lighting those torches. One of Israel’s most popular singers, Omer Adam, will perform during this part of the evening.

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