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.
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,
“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
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.
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
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
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.
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.