Geula Cohen remembers May 14, 1948, vividly. British ships sailing away from the Haifa Port, their flags going down, the Israeli flag going up, and boats filled with Jewish pioneers approaching the beach, where Cohen stood, observing and broadcasting the events for Lehi radio. "It's the day that we dreamed of. We dreamed of returning. We dreamed day and night - and we returned," Geula tells The Jerusalem Post.
"They don't say for nothing that the dream that you fight for comes true," says the former member of both the Irgun, the Lehi and the Stern Group, a former politician, and still a journalist and writer at age 89. She recalls how she went to Tel Aviv's Mugrabi Cinema and heard David Ben Gurion declaring Israel's independence, and how she and the entire nation danced. "The whole country was a big dancing circle - and today we are still dancing."
"We founded an entire country from scratch," she stresses. "Its education, agriculture, industry, art - culture is the only thing that we inherited."
Cohen is proud of the nation that she and her family fought for, and what it has achieved in 66 years, but she says it can always be better - and indeed she believes it will be. "It wasn't easy - a nation that went through the Holocaust, we came from there."
She says that while it's impossible for the young generation to be as ideological as her own generation, which built the nation, she sees that her grandchildren and their friends are proud of the army. She regrets that the IDF in 1973 cancelled the parades it used to hold on Independence Day, describing them as "medicine for the soul."
The meaningfulness of the Independence Day ceremony for Geula is clear - she says that being invited to light a torch was even more exciting for her than winning the Israel Prize, which she was granted in 2003 for her lifetime achievements and special contribution to society and the State of Israel. She says each woman glows, like the fires that they are setting alight - each one has their own story. Hers is a story of a woman who has fought all her life for her country.
Read the personal stories of the other torch-lighters here:
Actress and Holocaust survivor Miriam Zohar
Head of National Student Council Gal Yosef
Tennis star Shahar Pe'er
Intel CEO Maxine Fassberg
Paralympic hero Pascal Bercowitch
Military reporter Carmela Menashe
Bereaved mother Miriam Peretz
Scientist Dr. Kira Radinsky
Social activist Tali Peretz-Cohen