Steven Spielberg declines offer to light Independence Day torch

Report says film legend Steven Spielberg turned down the offer to light torch at Independence Day ceremony.

Tzvi Lev, JTA ,

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

A new report says that Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg turned down an offer to light a torch at Israel's annual Independence Day ceremony.

Israel traditionally opens its Independence Day festivities by holding a large torch lighting ceremony in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl. While the theme changes by the year, the event is meant to represent Israel's unity and 12 torches are lit by prominent Israelis in order to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. In 2017, it was decided that one torch is to be lit by a representative of diaspora Jewry.

According to Yediot Aharonot, Israel had approached Spielberg to represent the diaspora at the ceremony. However, Spielberg said that he would be in Japan at the time and would not be able to attend.

The annual ceremony has been beset by a number of high-profile cancellations and almost-cames.

On Tuesday, actress Mayim Bialik canceled her campaign to light a torch due to a scheduling conflict. Bialik had made a pitch to light a torch as the representative of Diaspora Jewry in a Facebook post. Hundreds of her followers reportedly sent nominations to the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

But when she was chosen, she discovered that she would not be able to attend due to the shooting schedule for the popular television series “The Big Bang Theory,” where she plays nerdy neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler.

The following day, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, canceled a trip to Israel and his participation in the torchlighting ceremony following accusations by the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party that his country is guilty of gross violations of human rights. Hernandez had confirmed his participation in the Mount Herzl event last week.

Israelis lighting torches include singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, stage actress Leah Koenig, Major General (Res.) Yeshayahu “Shaike” Gavish, who serves as chairman of the Palmach Veterans Association, Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony and Racheli Ganot, CEO of Rachip, a high-tech company that employs haredi Orthodox women.