More than a million Israelis took to the nation’s parks, forests and nature reserves on Tuesday to celebrate Independence Day.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund reported about a million revelers arriving at its picnic sites and forests, with approximately 400,000 of them concentrated in the Center and Shfela regions. Israel Nature and Parks Authority officials said they welcomed additional tens of thousands of travelers to national parks and nature reserves around the country.
The most frequented INPA sites were Yarkon National Park, Ashkelon National Park, Ein Hemed National Park, Achziv National Park and Hurshat Tal, the authority said.
Early risers were quick to claim their spaces at the KKL-JNF sites, particularly in the central region’s Ben Shemen Forest and at Hamlachim Forest in the South. Every year, the forests receive record numbers of travelers for Independence Day celebrations, KKL-JNF added. To prepare for the mass arrival of picnickers, the organization’s workers distributed biodegradable garbage bags and instructed visitors to dispose of them in designated locations.
This year, KKL-JNF staff put an increasing emphasis on fire safety rules, stressing that under no circumstances should revelers light fires inside the woods.
Instead, they stressed that barbecue fires must be kindled in regulated zones only, with no hot coals left behind.
The INPA focused on safety and fire prevention during the day even more so due to the dry weather, providing travelers with specific instructions, the authority said.
The public kept spaces relatively clean this Independence Day, KKL-JNF reported. Nonetheless, cleanup crews were reinforced throughout the day and will continue their trash removal efforts on Wednesday, the organization said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Independence Day festivities were kicked off at the President’s Residence, where President Shimon Peres paid homage to soldiers who were cited for exceptional service and commendations.
Peres was also joined by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz for a special Independence Day sing-along.
During the ceremony, Netanyahu praised the IDF soldiers for their contribution to the state.
“I am always proud to be the prime minister of Israel, but particularly on a day like today,” Netanyahu said. “Our outstanding soldiers are operating in the air, at sea, and on land in order to ensure the security of the state of Israel. I know that we have trustworthy people whom we can rely on whenever we send you to missions everywhere.”
“I want to thank your parents who raised and educated you to contribute to the state,” the premier said. “On behalf of the citizens of the state, thank you.”
Later in the afternoon, IAF warplanes were heard roaring over the skies in a special ceremonial flyover.