In military cemeteries all over the country today, parents, siblings, spouses, children, and comrades in arms will gather to mourn loved ones and friends who died in service to the nation.

The central events marking Remembrance Day for the Fallen and Israel Independence Day will all take place in Jerusalem, the nation’s capital.

This morning and in the early afternoon there will be separate services at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery for those who fell in battle and for victims of terrorism. As always, the nation will come to a halt during the morning with the sounding of a memorial siren at 11 a.m.

This evening, Mount Herzl, named for Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, will again be a focal point, as people from all over the country together with visitors from abroad come together with IDF personnel and the Knesset guard to usher in Israel’s 66th Independence Day.

This year the celebration takes on a somewhat different format, as all 12 beacon lighters will be women.

Early tomorrow morning, President Shimon Peres will host a reception in honor of IDF commanders from the War of Independence onward. Current and former defense ministers have also been invited. At the conclusion of this reception there will be a fly past in formation of air force planes in a salute to Independence Day and to 120 outstanding young soldiers who will be honored.

The soldiers will form an honor guard for the event to be inspected by Peres and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz prior to the ceremony at which each will be singled out for a citation and a scholarship.

Peres will be joined on stage by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Gantz who will all follow a tradition initiated by Peres and sing their favorite Independence Day songs Community singing is one of the features of both official and informal Independence Day celebrations all over the country, and this year the presidential celebration will be dedicated to the country’s all-time icon of song, Arik Einstein, who died last November less than two months before what would have been his 75th birthday.

Peres has chosen to sing Oof Gozal (Fly Little Bird) in a duet with Rita. Netanyahu will sing Shir Hashayara (The song of the convoy) together with Shlomi Saranga; Ya’alon will sing Ima Adama (Mother Earth) with Kobi Aflalo; and Gantz will sing Shir Shel Aharei Hamilhama (The song for after the war) with Yuval Dayan.

Rita, who has frequently sung at presidential events during Peres’s term in office, said she is thrilled to be singing a duet with him and to be singing this particular song. She has known the president since the days when she used to go steady with her now ex-husband, Rami Kleinstein, whose parents lived in the same Tel Aviv apartment block as Peres and his late wife Sonia.

Netanyahu will have to break away from the ceremony before its conclusion to attend the annual International Bible Quiz for Youth, which is traditionally held on Israel Independence Day and which for more years than anyone can remember has included Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, among the judges.

In the late afternoon Peres, together with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, will host a reception for the diplomatic community and for military attaches.

Crowning the Israel Independence Day festivities will be the Israel Prize awards ceremony at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, which will be attended by Peres, Netanyahu, Education Minister Shai Piron, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

All of these events will be broadcast live on Channel One, Israel Radio, and the website of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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