Independence service performed despite tragedy

Mother of soldier killed in stage collapse lights torch at Independence Day ceremony.

Soldiers march at Mt. Herzl on Independence Day 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Soldiers march at Mt. Herzl on Independence Day 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The annual Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl went forward without incident on Wednesday evening despite last week’s tragedy, when a lighting rig collapsed and killed Lt. Hila Bezaleli during rehearsals for the event.
Bezaleli was honored with two moment of silences – at the beginning of the ceremony and during the procession of the Color Guards, which the 20-year-old medic planned to attend.
Bezaleli’s family sat in the front row of the audience along with Knesset Speaker Rueven Rivlin, and Bezaleli’s mother, Sigalit, lighted the central torch with Rivlin as the ceremony started.
In the address marking the transition from the somber Memorial Day to the festive Independence Day, Rivlin said that extremism is the biggest threat to the State of Israel.
“Conflicts show our maturity,” he said, highlighting the fact that the country was now stable enough to concentrate on growing and improving, and inevitability of disagreements stemming from Israel’s growing pains.
“It is not a conflict of Jews and Arabs, or secular and religious, it is a conflict of extremism,” Rivlin said.
The theme of Wednesday’s ceremony was entitled “Water: Source for Life.”
Israelis involved in water issues, including agriculture, desalination, purification, water recycling, and water therapy, were honored with lighting twelve torches on the stage. The candles represented the twelve tribes of Israel.
Hundreds of young dancers also performed at the ceremony, choreographing a rain dance with umbrellas in an attempt to convey Israel’s thirst for water.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised the organizers for finding a way to observe the ceremony despite the tragedy. “Lives need to continue, and this ceremony is a symbol,” he told The Jerusalem Post before the official service. “They understood the importance of the ceremony, and I am proud of them, how they organized this even with so much pain,” he said.
Last week, the police opened an investigation into the Itzuv Bama company, the entity responsible for installing the state lighting in question. Its collapse left four students wounded and Bezaleli dead.
The magistrate accused the company’s owners and engineer of “a long chain of negligence” and said it was “negligence at the highest level [we] have ever seen.”
On Tuesday, four suspects – company owner Elad Lavie, company engineer Oren Varshavky, security consultant Yitzhak Zuker and ceremony director, Alex Sela – were released from prison on the condition of seven days’ house arrest.
Click for special JPost featuresClick for special JPost features