Independence Day ceremony
Independence Day ceremony Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israel celebrates 67 years of independence on Wednesday night and Thursday, and will usher in the festivities with the traditional torch-lighting ceremony at 8:00 pm at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

The ceremony will be led by the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein (Likud). Ministers, MKs, and bereaved families will also be in attendance. 

​Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a special televised Independence Day address, thanking the IDF soldiers - without them, "we would not be here," he said - and the torch-lighting honorees for their groundbreaking work toward advancing the State of Israel. 

Edelstein then addressed the crowd, calling on the people of Israel to put aside their differences after the tense elections season. 

"Recently, increased feeling among many, perhaps too many, that life is unbearable in this country," he began. "Unfortunately, several agencies also contributed to deliberately strengthen this feeling. There is no room for this discourse! I regret that there are those among us, who sought frequently to slander Israel, to wail over us and blacken our reputation - and had a real obsessive preoccupation with it." 

"Today, when our country marks sixty-seven years of its existence, we must remove this unacceptable trend," he continued. "Considerations of cost of living and quality of life, deserve to be discussed in public. They harass, rightly, many of us, and the matter requires constant review."

"However, we must stop and ask ourselves: When did we start to measure our connection to Israel on considerations of cost and benefit? Is it appropriate that we change lives and reignited a deep dialogue thousands of years old - only to look at economic measures and considerations of convenience?"

"For me, the answer is clear: No, no!"

"However, it is the duty of the elected government to be vigilant, so that Israel will not forsake the principles of social justice, which always have this guiding principle: to never forget the poor and the stranger, the orphan, the widow, and to ensure you never turn your back on the needy." 

"Recently, many of us debated over 'us or him,' or 'us or them,'" Edelstein said, referring to the two main campaign slogans for rivals Likud and Labor. "The message that must be made here tonight is unequivocal: we are - us! Together!"

"We must rise above differences of opinion and sector," he urged. "We must strengthen the common denominator. We must condemn arrogance and excess, violence and racism - otherwise, we will lose the moral and ethical basis of this land." 

"God! I love this country," he continued. "But more than that, I love this nation! The residents of central Israel and the periphery, the people of the kibbutzim and moshavim, the settlers in Judea and Samaria, the minorities; the intellectuals and the People of the Book, the academics and the artists [. . .] we are equal!"

Honorees lighting torches include: 

  • Dr. Danny Gold - the inventor and developer of the Iron Dome. He is being honored for his significant contribution to protecting the security of Israel. 
  • Ehud Shabtai - one of the founders and developers of revolutionary navigation application WAZE. Shabtai will light the torch with Or Assouline, a 17-year-old high school student from Acco, who runs a company of young entrepreneurs. 
  • Rami Levy - a supermarket chain owner who brought about a breakthrough in the retail sector, as well as lower prices in the food sector. Levy has also ensured that families of terror victims receive enough food, most notably after the 2011 Fogel family massacre.  
  • Alice Miller - an IAF pilot whose appeal to the Supreme Court allowed women to join the air force's pilot course for the first time.
  • Lucy Aharish - a Muslim journalist, whose work spurred dialogue and openness between different sectors of Israel's population. 
  • Prof. Marta Weinstock-Rosin - a scientist and researcher in the field of medicine, who developed a drug "to treat Alzheimer's disease and improve the quality of patients' lives." She will light the torch with inventor and engineer Dr. Gabriel Idan.
  • Rafi Mehudar - an engineer and successful entrepreneur, who developed the world famous drip irrigation technology. 
  • Avihu Medina - a singer-songwriter, who made substantial contribution to Israeli and Mediterranean music.
  • Sima Shine - Israel's most senior female intelligence officer. 
  • Gal Lusky - founder and CEO of Israeli Flying Aid, which provides humanitarian assistance to disaster-stricken areas around the globe. 
  • Malka Puterkovsky - a teacher and women's rights activist, who broke ground in teaching women Torah law. 
  • Corporal Dan Korkovsky - an intelligence officer who has persevered in his field despite battling autism. He will serve as the IDF's official representative. 

Arutz Sheva wishes all of our readers and Israel a happy Yom Ha'atzmaut!