President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin hosted “All Israel From Jerusalem” and the traditional ceremony honoring 120 outstanding IDF soldiers for the fifth time from the gardens of Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem. Israel’s 71st Independence Day, Thursday 9 May / 4 Iyyar, was attended Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Aviv Kochavi and current and former members of the IDF General Staff.
The morning began with a fly-past in honor of the outstanding soldiers, who represent all branches of the IDF. The lead pilot of the fly-pass greeted the president and the soldiers as he flew over Beit HaNasi, saying “Mr President, Chief of Staff, we the pilots of the Israel Air Force greet you on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces with our best wishes for a Yom Haatzmaut Sameach – Happy Independence Day.” The president replied, saluting: “on behalf of the people of Israel I wish you Yom Haatzmaut Sameach – to you, the pilots of the IAF, soldiers of the IDF and their commanders in the air, on land and on the sea. Happy Independence Day, Israel!”
Immediately after the fly-past, the president and chief of staff reviewed and honor guard of the 120 outstanding solders, who were chosen on the recommendation of their commanders to receive the President’s Award for Excellence for their service and outstanding contribution to the IDF and the State of Israel.
Following the honor guard
the “All Israel from Jerusalem” event will be held on the lawns of Beit HaNasi – a festive salute to the spirit of Israel for Independence Day with songs and dancers from all across the country. During the event, a special video filmed with singer Boaz Sharabi and dozens of choirs and singing groups from across the country, kindergartners, gymnastic groups and dancers. Hundreds of people, a human mosaic of Israeli society, sang the song “Halevai / If Only”, composed by Boaz Sharabi with words by Ehud Manor.
The festivities were emceed this year by Rotem Abuhab, and included new and special arrangements of Israeli songs sung by Shimon Buskila, Maya Buskila and the Hebrews of Dimona. Tzipi Shavit surprised the president during his speech. The IDF’s singing groups also appeared, perfoming a medley of the songs of Yigal Bashan ז”ל as a special tribute.
“Dear citizens of Israel, I am proud to celebrate the State of Israel’s 71st birthday with you today! We have been here for 71 years, doing the unbelievable and overcoming together all the obstacles and building a home, Jewish and democratic, in the land of our ancestors, said the president at the beginning of his remarks.
He also noted that we are celebrating Yom Haatzmaut on the day victory over Nazi Germany is being celebrated: “Last week, we marked Holocaust Heroes’ and Martyrs’ Memorial Day, the victory of the spirit over human evil. Today, we mark together the triumph of good over bad, the liberation of the world from evil, and the right of the Jewish people to live in freedom in its land. Some of the heroes, the veterans who fought on the eastern and western fronts in Europe, 74 years ago, were able to make their home here in Israel in their old age and are with us today. Today, their children and grandchildren serve in the IDF, the strongest and most professional army in the region (and some might say in the world). Thanks to you, dear veterans, the soldiers who fought then, and thanks to the outstanding soldiers who defend us today – we are here, celebrating 71 years of success and growth. We are gathered here today to thank you.”
The president added
“I would like to recognize the representatives of the bereaved families and the families of the soldiers missing in action who are honoring us with their presence today. Thanks to you, to the spirit, love of the country and dedication you imparted to your children, we can gather here today and to celebrate the existence of the State of Israel in safety. Even today, as the grief of loss is mixed with the joy of independence, I would like to say to you – we remember. We are committed. Committed to do everything to bring home every soldier, every son and daughter who served the State of Israel and its citizens.”
“I would like to send a message of strength and love to the residents of the south, who just this week dealt heroically with the atrocious attacks on them. I would also like to send our appreciation to the IDF soldiers and security forces who are at this moment doing their utmost to keep Israel secure on all its borders.”
Addressing the outstanding soldiers, the president said, “Rotem, our wonderful emcee, badgered you about the Hebrew language, so I decided to speak a bit differently, which I think is more ‘Israeli’. I can see here that we have ‘tznefim’ (slang for paratroopers) and ‘shironairim’ (artillery), ‘golanchikim’ (Golani) and ‘nachlawim’ (Nachal), ‘mohandesim’ (engineers) and ‘shushuistim’ (intelligence), green (land forces), white (navy), blue (air force) and berets of all colors of the rainbow, from purple to orange. And so, to all those who at the induction base grabbed their kitbags with fire in their eyes and who got through basic training with close shaves and gleaming boots, to those who never ache to finish their time, never suffer from tiredness, who never tick off a countdown to their release, who never skipped guard duty, and never let staying on base for the weekend get to them, who get up early on Sunday, go out in their dress uniforms and don’t give in to army blues, who never complain that they’ve been badly done by, to those never slack off and who are full of fight because pride in the unit and mutual responsibility are the best way to be together, to those who have shown force of will and dedication (not just with the snacks at the canteen), who lent a hand – and sometimes two – to reach the goal, to protect the country, to get to the top, to be worthy of the President’s Award: you, who are not afraid of challenges, who are ready for the unexpected, who pull harder and stronger than anyone, you are Israel’s hope and spirit that beats within us, that leads us. You are here for us, serving and volunteering, and today it is our turn to give to you just a little something to brighten up your uniforms. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, and personally, I would like to thank you and salute you. Thank you for your spirit, for your commitment. Happy Independence Day to the IDF! Happy Independence Day, Israel! Chag Sameach!”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Aviv Kochavi
“Every day, these soldiers and tens of thousands like them, guard our borders. The State of Israel is a fact, and to keep it safe the IDF works day and night. Excellence is to be found in locked rooms and on dark hilltops. It requires hours and days of hard work and begins with the most basic things – thorough orders, disciplined organization of a position, repeated exercises to improve skills and insistence on carrying out missions to the highest level.
This is personal example at its finest: emulating those who excel! This is leadership, and that is what we have come to appreciate and give thanks for. This morning is about personal excellence, but excellence must be the organizational heartbeat that drives every unit, command and branch. The families who are with us here today are the ground from which you grew, who gave you values and an example of excellence. Reality changes at a dizzying pace, and we must continue to adapt. That is why we have adopted the principle of readiness and adaptability. We will do all we can to improve readiness, including with exercises, supplies and emergency stocks. And we will do what we can to fit ourselves to the challenges of today’s battlefield, to the challenges of the future and to improve the IDF’s offensive capability. Tens of thousands of soldiers come from the people each year and join the IDF, work for the state and return to the people as better and more committed citizens. I saw them during the recent fighting – as snipers on the borders, in the cockpit, in the battery command post and in the intelligence units. They work around the clock. They do security. I am proud of the soldiers of the IDF and of its officers, and proud of you, outstanding soldiers. Happy Independence Day!”
The event ended with the traditional photo of the 120 outstanding soldiers the president, the prime minister and minister of defence, the chief of staff and the members of the IDF General Staff.
Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers will award the 120 outstanding soldiers a grant for studies after they complete their service in the IDF.
Attached photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)