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‘Heroines and heroes’: President honors 120 outstanding IDF soldiers and officers

During annual Independence Day event at his official residence, Isaac Herzog pays tribute to those who are ‘keeping us safe, day and night’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • President Isaac Herzog speaks during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Isaac Herzog speaks during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • President Isaac Herzog with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th  Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem on May 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Isaac Herzog with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem on May 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi attend an event for outstanding soldiers, as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi attend an event for outstanding soldiers, as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • From left: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th  Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    From left: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett watches as soldiers sing during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett watches as soldiers sing during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog hosted an annual Independence Day ceremony at his official residence on Thursday to award the army’s annual citations for distinguished service to 120 Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers from a diverse set of units in the military.

The annual event at the President’s Residence sees Israel’s leaders hand out commendations of excellence to troops, while reminiscing about their own military service.

The Independence Day event began at 9:30 a.m. and was attended by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other current and former senior military figures.

“So much good is happening here. Even in the past year, which was not easy, we bore witness to heroines and heroes in medicine, welfare, education, and so many other institutions, confronting the COVID crisis,” Herzog told the soldiers.

“Brothers and sisters, this year we have also seen heroines and heroes, in the Israel Defense Forces, in Mossad and the Shin Bet, in the Israel Police, in the Prisons Service, and in the emergency and rescue services, keeping us safe, day and night,” he said.

“I feel I must share, in the past few weeks Michal and I have been consoling bereaved families from the wave of terror striking us, families who have impressed and moved us, ” Herzog added.

From left: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel’s 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Independence Day ceremony was Herzog’s first as president.

“You are our true pride. I salute you,” he said to the 120 soldiers. “I have read your stories. I was moved by your stories. Truly, by each and every one. You are here thanks to who you are, and thanks to who we are — thanks to you! Thank you very much! I extend the same gratitude to you, dear parents and families. We are proud of your children, and we are excited together with you.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett watches as a soldier sings during an event for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel’s 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi also thanked the soldiers’ families, saying: “You have a significant part in the excellence. It is a reflection of the spirit of the home and the fruit of home education. Thank you, and you too are therefore partners in protecting [the country].”

Herzog also posted photos of each of the honored soldiers on his Facebook page — albeit with avatars instead of actual portraits for those whose military duties are classified, usually indicating service in elite units. Of the 22 soldiers whose identities remained under wraps, seven are women.

120 מפניה היפות של מדינת ישראל – אלה הם מצטיינות ומצטייני נשיא המדינה לשנת תשפ״ב! ????????

Posted by ‎יצחק הרצוג – Isaac Herzog‎ on Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Independence Day celebrations began on Wednesday night with an official torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem and will continue throughout Thursday.

Another staple of Independence Day celebrations, the annual Bible Quiz competition finals, was slated to take place after the presidential ceremony.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are also expected to visit national parks and museums throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the hallmark flyovers of combat planes, helicopters, and drones began over the country’s skies at 9:30 a.m. Flyovers by the Air Force are a popular feature of the day, especially on the Mediterranean beaches, where families bring folding chairs and barbecues to watch the show.

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