Soldiers at Mt. Herzl mark Israel's 69th Independence Day. .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem was the focus of Tuesday morning’s Independence Day ceremony that – instead of the usual 120 – this year honored 121 outstanding soldiers from all branches of the IDF.
Of those, 19 – including six females – were officers. Those born outside of Israel included two each from the UK and France; three from Russia; four each from the US and Ethiopia; and one each from Ukraine, Italy, Peru, Argentina, India, Guatemala, Tunis, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
President Reuven Rivlin – who was nine when the state was proclaimed – told those gathered on the lawn of his official residence that the joy and exultation were indescribable on that day in 1948.
But there was no dancing in the streets of Jerusalem, he said, because the capital was instantly plunged into a cruel war – first in the Old City, then on Mount Scopus – even in Katamon where Rivlin’s grandfather lived.
“My generation was born to a different reality. For us to see a Hebrew soldier in the state of the Jewish people never was and never will be something to take for granted,” said Rivlin.
“The Jewish People rose from the ashes, revived the Hebrew language and built an empire here in the land of Israel.”
Turning to the soldiers being honored, he praised their talents, values, daring, sense of mission, dedication, initiative and audacity. Rivlin surprised American-born Sophie Krachinski – a lone soldier whose parents migrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union but were unable to be present – by playing a recording of family members speaking excitedly in English, Russian and Hebrew and saying how proud they were of her.
In addition to seventh-generation Jerusalemite Rivlin, speakers included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief-of- Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot Sec.-Lt. Zohar Zaltz spoke on behalf of all the outstanding soldiers, saying they had not acted for the sake of reward, but because of their duty to give of themselves, safeguard the country and serve as an example to others.
Zaltz, a native son of Kibbutz Lahavot Habashan, made special note of soldiers who volunteered; those who came from abroad to contribute to Israel’s well-being; those who were missing in action and those who died in the line of duty; and said none of them would ever be forgotten.