Hidden behind hat and mask, police counterterror chief lights Independence Day torch

Commander of elite Yamam unit conceals his face as he becomes first torch-lighter to take part in state ceremony with identity under wraps

The commander of the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit lights a torch during the ceremony for Israel's 74th Independence Day at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on May 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The commander of the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit lights a torch during the ceremony for Israel's 74th Independence Day at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on May 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several Israelis were prominently honored Wednesday evening at Israel’s official 74th Independence Day ceremony, lighting the customary torches in recognition of their contributions to the country and Jewish communities.

Among the torch-lighters was the commander of the police’s Yamam anti-terror unit, whose face was hidden by a mask and hat.

The man, whose full name was also kept under wraps, was chosen to represent members of Israeli security forces working undercover or in sensitive posts and unable to reveal their identities — a first.

As he was called to light the torch, one of the ceremony’s hosts said “H” — the first initial of his first name — had risked his life “countless times” in secret operations.

“I light this torch in honor of my brothers and sisters… who endanger their lives every day and night for Israel’s security,” the police commander said from behind the mask.

“For the children in school, the youngsters at the beach, the farmers in the fields and the people in the street — this is our image of victory,” he added.

“H” was tapped for the honor last month, with the announcement describing him as 53, married with three children, and a “bold and accomplished officer who began his service as a Yamam fighter in 1990.” He was selected to light the torch “on behalf of Israeli police officers, Border Police officers, volunteers and reservists who are at the forefront of protecting state security and its citizens.”

His selection came amid a series of deadly terror attacks that have now left 16 dead. In one attack, two Border Police officers were shot dead in Hadera before the gunmen were killed by other officers nearby. And in Bnei Brak just two days later, five people including a responding officer were killed right before police shot dead the perpetrator.

Singer Rita Yahan-Farouz lights a torch during the 74th anniversary Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on May 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Other torchlighters:

  • Kalman Samuels, a Canadian ex-pat who founded Shalva, an organization which helps people with disabilities.
  • Yael Sherer, a leading activist for victims of sexual violence.
  • Simcha Gathon, who immigrated from Ethiopia and today leads the Center for the Legacy of Ethiopian Jewry.
  • Angel Alon, a Netivot resident who was a foster parent to 217 at-risk children for over 30 years.
  • Asael Shabo, who lost his mother and three siblings in a 2002 terror attack in which he also lost part of his right leg, and went on to become a wheelchair basketball athlete.
  • Mounir Madi, who heads a pre-army academy in Dalyat al-Carmel for Druze and Jewish youth.
  • Hadar Cohen, who leads an IDF unit for new immigrants needing both basic training and Hebrew instruction.
  • Rita Yehan-Farouz, a Tehran born Israeli pop singer better known as just Rita.
  • Idan Kleiman, who heads the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization.
  • Yoram Yair, an ex-general who leads programs to provide support for soldiers, youth leadership training and substance abuse rehabilitation.
Kalman Samuels lights a torch at Israel’s 74th Independence Day ceremony, held at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on May 4, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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