“Good Morning Israel,” the opening celebration of Thursday’s Independence Day festivities, will again be broadcast live on radio and television from the President’s Residence this year.
The main focus of the event is the honoring of commanders of Israel’s past wars, former defense ministers and chiefs, the past president, present and past prime ministers and various other dignitaries. Above all, 120 outstanding soldiers currently serving in various units of the Israel Defense Forces will be honored.
Every year, the soldiers meet at the President’s Residence at some point during Independence Day week to rehearse for the ceremony, with the president going onto the grounds to meet some of them personally and to address them all.
In past years, some of the volunteer soldiers from abroad have been surprised at the ceremony by visits from their parents, resulting in emotional scenes both on stage and off.
The rehearsals took place on Tuesday morning this week, and President Isaac Herzog went out to greet the soldiers as they stood in formation. He told them he realized that what they were going through over the past few days was a drag, but assured them that the memory of the actual ceremony would accompany them throughout the years ahead.
“This is an enormous privilege,” he told them, adding that there are tens, hundreds and thousands of outstanding soldiers, but that they had been chosen as the best of the best. “You are a source of great pride,” he told them. “I love you all dearly and I’m proud of all of you.”
The president wished them good health and a successful service, and expressed his hope that when they return to civilian life, they will continue to serve the state.
“It is because of you that the state is so strong and protected,” he said.
The ceremony, set for Thursday morning, will begin with the traditional flyover by an Israel Air Force contingent. This year, for the first time, the planes will fly over Hebron, a symbolic act linking the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the future of the nation, and a salute to the president and the outstanding soldiers.
The overall program will include veteran singer Yardena Arazi singing the songs of prolific lyricist Yoram Taharlev, who died earlier this year. Many of his songs have become part of Israel’s musical DNA.
Other performing artists will include Agam Buhbut, Benaya Barbie, Ilai Butner and Yaldei HaHutz, accompanied by IDF singers and musicians.
Later in the day, Herzog and his wife, Michal, will attend the finals of the International Bible Quiz. The quiz has personal meaning for the president, because it was initiated by his late mother, Aura, when she headed the committee for the 10th anniversary Independence Day celebrations in 1958.
In the late afternoon, the president and his wife will host a reception for foreign diplomats, and in the evening, they will attend the Israel Prize awards ceremony.