Israel celebrates 73rd Independence Day with Air Force flyby

Crowds again allowed to observe annual Air Force display in the sky after COVID restrictions rolled back; other public festivities, private gatherings being held throughout country

People watch an IDF Air Force flyover on Israel's 73rd Independence Day celebrations at Sacher Park in Jerusalem, April 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People watch an IDF Air Force flyover on Israel's 73rd Independence Day celebrations at Sacher Park in Jerusalem, April 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Air Force planes were jetting across the country on Thursday to mark Independence Day, with crowds again permitted to watch the annual flyby after coronavirus restrictions were significantly relaxed.

The flyover, a popular and iconic feature of Independence Day celebrations, is passing over more cities and towns than usual this year in what the Israel Defense Forces has called a “salute” to all Israeli citizens.

At 8:45 a.m., military aircraft flew over President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence in Jerusalem, ahead of an annual ceremony in which 120 soldiers are awarded the President’s Medal of Distinction.

The flyby itself kicked off at 10:30 a.m., with the planes set to zigzag across the country until 1 p.m.

Following is a partial list of flyby times for some of the major cities across the country:

Jerusalem — 11:52

Tel Aviv — 11:34

Haifa — 12:02

Beersheba — 12:02

A full list (Hebrew) of flyover sites and times can be found here, as well as a link to a smartphone application to track the aircraft.

F-15, F-16, F-16I and F-35 fighter jets; the Lavi training aircraft; C-130 and C-130J cargo planes; the Boeing refueling plane; Black Hawk, Sea Stallion, Panther and Apache helicopters were taking part in the flyby, known in Israel as the matas.

Last year, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flyby saluted medical staff over the nation’s hospitals.

Other official Independence Day events scheduled for Thursday include the International Bible Contest, which began at 11 a.m., and the Israel Prize ceremony, which will be held at 6:30 p.m.

Israelis barbeque at Dolfinarium beach park on Israel’s 68th Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

Israelis also traditionally celebrate the holiday with private gatherings that usually include visits to beaches and parks and outdoor cookouts.

Municipalities will be permitted to hold Independence Day celebrations for the vaccinated. In locales with limited risk of infection, depending on the size of the venue, up to 3,000 vaccinated people will be allowed to gather indoors and 5,000 outdoors.

Independence Day began Wednesday evening as Memorial Day came to an end, with the annual state ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

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