For 12th-grader Lior Lefeber, water is a tool that brings children together and urges them to work in unison despite their perceived differences.

As a counselor in the Haifa Sea Scouts, she often sees younger children objecting at first to rowing their boats – a sentiment that quickly changes.

“They know that if they don’t all work together, they won’t go anywhere and they won’t get to the land,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “They know that they must row together.”

Lefeber will light one of the 13 torches at Wednesday night’s annual Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl, where this year’s theme will be “Water – The Source of Life.”

The torch-lighters, who were chosen by a public committee within the Israel National Ceremony Center, all work in fields or have initiated projects that touch on that theme, according to Hannah Hacohen, National Ceremony Center director at the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, the body responsible for the yearly event.

“Dealing with reality in Israel as a country that thirsts for water, which is the source of life, constitutes a symbol of the revival of our people in our land and symbolizes our ability to succeed in the face of the challenges before us, and this is through determination, initiative, creativity and faith in the justice of our cause,” Hacohen said in a statement her office released.

Lefeber is finishing up her last year at Haifa’s Leo Baeck Education Center, after which she will enlist in the Naval Officer’s Course in the Israel Navy, a place where she said she hopes to hone her skills as a leader. But for now, she enjoys rowing in the Sea Scout boats, which sail twice each week. She particularly enjoys that the children on the boats are able to learn lessons in teamwork as well as forge friendships and develop their speaking skills.

“The specialty of the Sea Scouts is the water,” she said. “This is what connects all the kids together.”

In addition to Lefeber, 12 other torch-lighters will take the stage for the Mount Herzl Independence Day ceremony, including Esther Avraham, a graduate of the Wingate Institute who now works as a hydrotherapist treating handicapped IDF veterans and civilians. Joining them will be Maya Braun, a 12th-grade student at the Moshe Sharet School in Netanya who won first prize – along with partner Avishai Katko – for her project on “Water Disinfection by Solar Radiation” in the Intel-Israel 15th Annual Young Scientists Competition in March.

A fourth torch-lighter is Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich, whose city derives its name from the well Abraham dug during biblical days. Danilovich will be representing residents of Beersheba and of other communities in the South, which recently endured rocket fire attack from Gaza, according to the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

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Alex Wiznitzer, chairman of the board of the Mekorot National Water Company, will take the stage for his company, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. A sixth lighter will be Uri Moran, an educator at the Mossensohn Youth Village in Hod Hasharon, where he teaches students about water conservation, water recycling and soil preservation.

Also lighting will be Herzl Naor, a hydrology expert who has been developing water resources in the Arava Desert for decades.

Moshe Cohen, director of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s Project Development Division, will kindle a torch as well. He has been working with KKL-JNF since 1982 and has overseen the construction of more than 240 water reservoirs since then. In addition to his work with reservoirs, he has long been involved with implementing water purification technologies, restoring streams and preventing soil erosion, according to KKL-JNF. In order to combat desertification, he leads efforts to harvest run-off water for use in desert tree-planting.

A ninth lighter, Shlomo Tzewiler, is a farmer from Hod Hasharon who has introduced water-saving irrigation methods to his own farm and has taught these strategies to many of his colleagues, according to the ministry.

Lighter Prof. Emeritus Menahem Rebhun, meanwhile, is an expert in environmental, water and agricultural engineering at the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where he works on water filtration methods and techniques for improving wastewater treatment.

An 11th lighter is Dr. Hanna Rosenfeld of the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat, where she serves as an expert on fish and marine invertebrate reproductive physiology. A 12th is Giora Shaham, who was the director of the Re-flooding Project in the Hula Valley from 1994 to 1997.

Orit Skutelsky, a doctoral student in ecology and environmental policy at Tel Aviv University, will join the other 12 lighters on stage, representing the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) in her capacity as their water and streams coordinator. She and her colleagues at SPNI have recently launched a report that calls on the government to take action in reviving the country’s springs and streams.

“Water as a resource is changing today because we are not relying on only natural resources, but also on desalinated water, and that stabilizes the water situation in Israel,” she said. “Our vision today is that Israel is entering an era of sustainable use of water resources, and that will eventually lead to the reviving of the streams and the natural water ecosystems.”

She believes it is “a miracle that so many people live here in a country that has such limited water resources. But on the other hand, that means we have to be very smart in the way we use the resources.”

In light of this year’s Independence Day theme, Mekorot has announced that it is opening four of its sites to the public throughout the day Thursday, free of charge: the Eshkol Site in the Beit Netufa Valley of the Lower Galilee, the Sapir Station Center on Lake Kinneret, the Granot site near Kiryat Malachi and the Lahat facility near Karmei Yosef.

To many of the torch-lighters, lighting a torch at the ceremony goes beyond the valued liquid resource.

“The event itself symbolizes grief and sadness, and this year it is especially touching because of what happened at the rehearsal,” Skutelsky said, referring to the lighting rig collapse at Mount Herzl that killed Lt. Hila Bezaleli. She noted that she was impressed with the way the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry had been coping with the situation since.

Meanwhile, taking part in the ceremony has a personal connection for Lefeber.

“I feel like it’s the closure of a circle,” she said. “First of all, my grandma survived the Holocaust. My dad participated in a lot of wars, and my grandpa died during his military service in the [Border Police]. It’s really important to me to stand there and to present for them.”

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