remembrance day 298 88.
(photo credit: AP)
After a day of mourning for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, the Israeli flag at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl was raised from its half-mast position after sunset. Monday, marking the transition from grief to celebration as the country rang in its 59th Independence Day.
State and military officials, an IDF honor guard, members of Israel's various youth movements, and various performing artists gathered at the military cemetery - which only hours earlier had witnessed more solemn rites - for the traditional speeches, songs, and dances.
Acting President Dalia Itzik was the first to speak.
"Even on a day of flags and happiness, there are people among us who mourn their loss. We have been living for 59 years in a war the end of which is not yet in sight," she said.
Itzik finished resolutely saying that "we have won before and we will win again, for we have no other choice."
She reiterated Israel has not given up on the dream of peace, and quoted Herzl's famous saying, "all men's deeds begin in dreams."
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who ascended the podium after Itzik, urged those assembled not to separate their grief for the Israel's fallen soldiers and terror victims from their celebration of the country's independence.
"We must strengthen the connection," Lupolianski said, adding that Israel would not ignore those who mourn. "We won't celebrate alone - we'll help them. Then - their memory will live," he said.
Lupolianski reminded the audience that Monday marked not only the 59th Independence Day, but the 40th anniversary since Jerusalem's reunification. "The differences, the range of cultures and ethnicities in this city, is not a disadvantage, but a challenge," the mayor said.
"Forty years ago, the walls that blocked the heart of the city fell. Now, let's bring down the walls around our hearts," he said, exhorting Israelis to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
This year, Israel's population increased by 121,000, or 1.8 percent, since last year's
Independence Day, reaching a total of 7,150,000.
In 2006, Israel's Jewish population became, for the first time since the first century CE, the largest Jewish community in the world, and a leading demographer told The Jerusalem Post that within 30 years, the majority of Jews in the world will be living here.