President Peres greets IDF soldiers on Yom Ha
President Peres greets IDF soldiers on Yom HaHezki Ezra

In one of the main state Independence Day ceremonies, President Shimon Peres welcomed 120 of the IDF's best and brightest at a formal reception in the President's House. Attending the ceremony were top politicians and IDF officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

The soldiers received special certificates of merit for their contributions to Israel's security. Two of the recipients of the certificates, victims of the mishap on Mt. Herzl last week during construction of a platform for Independence Day festivities, are still in the hospital.

Peres told the soldiers that “your hidden abilities are even greater than the abilities we can see. Your mission is to prevent war in a world without borders, that has unlimited technology. The nation sees you as the best representatives of the best army. We have 120 new hopes in you.”

Peres also warned Israel's enemies that to lay off their plans to attempt to destroy the Jewish state. “Israel is stronger than ever,” he said. “Israel has what it has, but it also has the ability to renew itself, to surprise, to gather strength, and to progress creatively.”

Speaking at the ceremony, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that “when I look at these, the soldiers who have excelled, I see the future. I see them and can envision what the command of the IDF will look like in ten years and in twenty years. Thanks to their dedication and excellence they are the bedrock of the IDF's success on land, air, and sea.”

Among those honored with the certificates was Air Force officer Haya Sachivaschorder, whose three brothers and parents were killed in the Sbarro attack in 2001, when she was eight. IDF soldier Anastasia Begdalov, who helped treat and evacuate victims of the terrorist attack near Eilat in August, also received a certificate. In addition, several soldiers who were involved in the IDF action on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 received certificates as well.