Soldiers march at Mt. Herzl on Independence Day 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The annual Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl went forward without
incident on Wednesday evening despite last week’s tragedy, when a lighting rig
collapsed and killed Lt. Hila Bezaleli during rehearsals for the
Bezaleli was honored with two moment of silences – at the
beginning of the ceremony and during the procession of the Color Guards, which
the 20-year-old medic planned to attend.
Bezaleli’s family sat in the
front row of the audience along with Knesset Speaker Rueven Rivlin, and
Bezaleli’s mother, Sigalit, lighted the central torch with Rivlin as the
In the address marking the transition from the somber
Memorial Day to the festive Independence Day, Rivlin said that extremism is the
biggest threat to the State of Israel.
“Conflicts show our maturity,” he
said, highlighting the fact that the country was now stable enough to
concentrate on growing and improving, and inevitability of disagreements
stemming from Israel’s growing pains.
“It is not a conflict of Jews and
Arabs, or secular and religious, it is a conflict of extremism,” Rivlin
The theme of Wednesday’s ceremony was entitled “Water: Source for
Israelis involved in water issues, including agriculture,
desalination, purification, water recycling, and water therapy, were honored
with lighting twelve torches on the stage. The candles represented the twelve
tribes of Israel.
Hundreds of young dancers also performed at the
ceremony, choreographing a rain dance with umbrellas in an attempt to convey
Israel’s thirst for water.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised the
organizers for finding a way to observe the ceremony despite the tragedy. “Lives
need to continue, and this ceremony is a symbol,” he told The Jerusalem Post
before the official service. “They understood the importance of the ceremony,
and I am proud of them, how they organized this even with so much pain,” he
Last week, the police opened an investigation into the Itzuv Bama
company, the entity responsible for installing the state lighting in question.
Its collapse left four students wounded and Bezaleli dead.
accused the company’s owners and engineer of “a long chain of negligence” and
said it was “negligence at the highest level [we] have ever seen.”
Tuesday, four suspects – company owner Elad Lavie, company engineer Oren
Varshavky, security consultant Yitzhak Zuker and ceremony director, Alex Sela –
were released from prison on the condition of seven days’ house arrest.