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Independence Day 2024
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Israel celebrates 76th Independence Day in the shadow of ongoing war, with hostages still in captivity

Independence Day 2024

Protesters government held an alternative, torch-extinguishing ceremony in Binyamina.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The official ceremony marking Israel’s 76th birthday was different than any previous Independence Day Monday night, being pre-taped and displayed to no live audience, with content that was more moving than celebratory.

As the transition from Israel’s Remembrance Day, twelve memorial torches were first shown being lit at twelve sites that Hamas terrorists overran on October 7 during their invasion in which they massacred 1,200 people and abducted 253 back to the Gaza Strip.

In his brief speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the 132 remaining captives, promising to bring them all home, even the dead.

Mentioning Israel’s “secret weapon” – its “spirit of the ages,” that allowed the Jewish nation to defeat its enemies in 1948 – he reiterated his vow to defeat Hamas and praised the IDF soldiers who “fell in heroic battles” in the ongoing war.

Instead of honoring individuals for their contributions to the Jewish state in various fields, 44 people lit six torches as representatives of groups that have led the way in defending the country over the last seven months.

There were beacons honoring the Security Services, Rescue Forces, Civilian Rescuers, Communities’ Emergency Response Teams, Israel (online) Advocates, and Air Defense.

A seventh beacon was reserved for Diaspora Jewry, who rushed to help their brethren in Israel as soon as the war began. While the leading Jewish organizations raised hundreds of millions of dollars, dozens of grassroots initiatives began to bring in tons of items that IDF soldiers needed because Israel had never called up over 300,000 reservists at the same time before.

The final beacon was that of hope. Iris Haim raised it together with three musicians and the oldest IDF reservist, Ezra Yachin, 95, a member of the Lechi underground who fought the British in pre-state Palestine and has gone around the country’s bases during the war to instill his still-indomitable spirit in the soldiers of today.

Haim’s son Yotam, kidnapped on October 7, managed to escape his Hamas captors in December along with two other Israelis but all three were accidentally killed by IDF troops who feared they were terrorists in disguise. Haim inspired the country with her immediate, public message of love and understanding for those soldiers, and her call for national harmony.

She raised the torch and said, “In honor of my Yotam, in honor of the nation’s spirit that will never be broken, the ability to believe and to see the good in Israeli society. In honor of unity.”

In contrast to the state ceremony, others who oppose the government and blame it instead of Hamas for the continued captivity of the hostages, carried out a torch-extinguishing ceremony in an amphitheater in Binyamina.

Members of some hostages’ and bereaved families, survivors of the Hamas slaughter, evacuees and others put out such beacons as the “Security Breach” torch, the “Beacon of the Desolation of the Surrounding Settlements,” and “Abandonment of the Kidnapped.”

Some of the others that were extinguished were called beacons of “Arrogance,” of “Loss of Personal Security for Women,” of “Neglecting Mental Health,” and “Abandonment of the Citizens to their Fate.”

There was also one for the “Displaced Persons,” 80,000 residents who were told to leave their homes both in the south and north to keep them safe from both the aerial threat from Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The speakers expressed their bitterness and pain over the horrific events of October 7 and harshly criticized the government’s conduct of the war and “abdication of responsibility” in not taking proper care of the needs of all those affected by it, whether directly or indirectly.

At the end, Iris Zangauker, the mother of 24-year-old hostage Matan from Kibbutz Nir Oz lit the Beacon of Hope.

While saying that “we have a nation but the country has been hijacked” and has “no leaders,” she stated that the people “who understand that what is most important is human life” will instead lead the way and not rest until all the hostages are returned.

“I light this beacon of mutual responsibility and hope for the rescue of the kidnapped [which] is the rescue of the country. Now!” she exclaimed.

Thousands watched the ceremony broadcast in HaBima Square in Tel Aviv, and after it ended they marched to the site where David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence, chanting, “It’s not independence without the hostages.”

The post Israel celebrates 76th Independence Day in the shadow of ongoing war, with hostages still in captivity appeared first on World Israel News.