Israeli Independence Day kicks off with torch-lighting ceremony
Ceremony is first in two years after Covid restrictions prevented large gatherings, first with no fireworks
Israel celebrated its 74th Independence Day starting Wednesday night with a torch-lighting ceremony, which signifies the transition from Memorial Day.
Covid restrictions over the past two years have meant Israel has had to forgo the celebration, which features honored dignitaries from Israel's society and military lighting ceremonial torches.
This is the first year the ceremony will not feature fireworks, in consideration of Israelis suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The ceremony featured a speech by Knesset (Israel's parliament) speaker Mickey Levy, as well as music by some of Israel's leading artists.
The torchbearers were Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoram "Yaya" Yair, Yael Scherer, Lt. Col. (res.) Munir Madi, Elizaveta Sherstuk, Uri Banki, Judge Mika Banki, Idan Kleiman, Asael Shabo, Kalman Samuels, Dr. Simcha Gethon, Angel Alon, Lt. Hadar Cohen, Rita Yahan-Farouz (a famous Israeli singer known as "Rita" who was born in Iran) and the head of Israel's counter-terrorism unit.
The Bankis are the parents of Shira Banki, who was killed participating in the Jerusalem Pride March in 2015. Since her murder at the age of 15, the Bankis have worked to promote tolerance in Israel.
Yael Scherer is the survivor of sexual abuse who has used her case to promote the rights of victims of domestic abuse.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoram Yair, known as “Yaya,” is a leading general and father of the late Capt. Shlomit Yair, who died in a plane crash with four fellow pilots while serving in the Israel Air Force.
He is also the chairman of both Yahad United for Israel's Soldiers, which assists underprivileged and lone soldiers, and Aharai, which helps prepare Israeli youth for military service.
Lt. Col. (res.) Munir Madi, a Druze man, formed “Kerem-El,” which combines Jewish and Druze youth preparing together for service in the IDF, in the northern Israeli Druze town Daliyat al-Carmel.
Elizaveta Sherstuk, the head of the Hesed group in Ukraine's Sumy, represented Jews from abroad. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, she helped organize the rescue of hundreds of Ukrainian Jews.