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Photo by: Yosef Avi Yair Engel
‘Outstanding soldiers in an outstanding country’
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
04/24/2012
President Peres offers troops pre-Independence Day praise as they rehearse for Thursday’s ceremony.
 
Ahead of Thursday’s Independence Day ceremonies, a group of outstanding soldiers – minus those injured last week in the rigging collapse at Mount Herzl – went through their paces at the President’s Residence on Monday.

Maj. Oded Nahari, head of the General Staff Ceremonies Department, had them marching, standing to attention, standing at ease, sitting, rising from their seats, sitting again, in an effort to get them properly synchronized. Using a bullhorn, he barked out orders in quick succession: “Heads up, backs straight, sit, hands on knees, stand up, first row move forward...”

As President Shimon Peres came out to greet the young soldiers from various national, ethnic and religious backgrounds, Nahari allowed himself to relax.

“Not bad,” he said, smiling.

“Not bad at all.”

“Each of you is an outstanding soldier,” Peres told them, “and this is an outstanding country. We started with nothing, and look how we’ve grown and developed. We can defend ourselves. We can provide an income for our citizens and we can educate our children. We have always been able to overcome challenges, and we will continue to do so in the future.”

Telling the youngsters that they were a source of pride to the country, he asked them to thank their parents on his behalf for instilling in them the values that made them exceptional human beings.

Nahari, in conversation with Peres, wished the injured soldiers a speedy recovery and said he looked forward to the day when they, too, could receive their citations and scholarships.

The president said he and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz had visited the soldiers in the hospital, and found them to be doing reasonably well.

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Though there is meant to be a total of 120 soldiers in the ceremony, Monday’s group was missing the hospitalized soldiers, as well as Lt. Hila Bezaleli, who was killed in the Mount Herzl accident.

Later, when speaking to the media, Peres said he agreed with the decision to continue with arrangements for the official Independence Day events at Mount Herzl following Bezaleli’s tragic death; however, he added, at the same time, it was imperative to root out the negligence that exacted a cost in or posed a threat to human life.

Calling Israel an “extraordinary nation,” he noted that while the rest of the world was coping with economic crises, Israel’s economy was in fairly good shape.

He was also proud of the country’s democracy – under which, he said, people could speak about anything and disagree with each other without fear of reprisal – and of the young people who had led the call for social justice last year.

The president has invited the whole world to join him in celebrating Independence Day on Thursday, and anyone who wants to do so virtually has several options. From 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m Israel time, the festivities at the President’s Residence will be broadcast live on his Facebook page, on Channels 1, 2, 9 and 10, on YNet, Army Radio and Israel Radio stations Bet and Gimmel.

A formation of IAF combat planes, flown by ace pilots, will start off the festivities with a fly-by. All the upper echelons of the defense establishment, along with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will attend the ceremony honoring outstanding soldiers; and Peres, Netanyahu, Gantz, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will select their favorite songs, which they will sing together with Rami Kleinstein, the IDF Orchestra, Roni Dalomi, Esther Rada, members of the army entertainment troupe, music school students and the families of the soldiers attending the ceremony.
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