Israeli Air Force’s Independence Day flyover returns after pandemic break

‘Saluting all Israelis,’ military flyby to include more towns than ever

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

Israeli medical staff cheer an Israeli airforce aerobatic team as they fly over Shaarei Tsedek hospital in Jerusalem on Israel's 72nd Inependence Day, April 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israeli medical staff cheer an Israeli airforce aerobatic team as they fly over Shaarei Tsedek hospital in Jerusalem on Israel's 72nd Inependence Day, April 29, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel was gearing up to mark its 73rd Independence Day with an aerial salute to the public following a challenging year of pandemic, after the events last year were mostly canceled during a nationwide lockdown, the military said Friday.

The annual Independence Day flyby, a popular and iconic feature of celebrations, will pass over more towns than usual, “to salute all the citizens of Israel,” a spokesperson for the military said.

Unlike last year, crowds will be allowed to gather to watch the jets and other military aircraft zoom by following the major lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

The flyover will include 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 are also scheduled to take part in the flyby, known in Israel as the matas between 10:30 a.m. and 13:00 p.m. on April 15.

The military airshow on Israel’s 69th Independence Day, May 2, 2017. (Flash90)

Additionally, the military planned a performance by its fleet of aerobatic planes, with four aircraft flying in formation around the country between 8:45 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

The aerobatics will be seen over Tiberias, Nahariya, Acre, Haifa, Tel Aviv beach, Ashdod beach, Ashkelon beach, Jerusalem’s Sacher and Independence parks, as well as the southern city of Beersheba.

A more detailed schedule, as well as an app to track the flight locations, will be released closer to the time, the military said.

In 2020, during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel, the aerobatics performance saluted medical staff over the nation’s hospitals.

This year, official state Memorial Day and Independence Day ceremonies on April 13-15 will be held, but with smaller crowds than usual. All participants will be required to carry a “Green Passport” — proof of vaccination with both anti-COVID-19 doses, or recovery from the virus.

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, 5,000 outdoors.

Fireworks light up the skies in Holon as Israel celebrates its 72th Independence Day under lockdown, April 28, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Israel’s serious COVID-19 cases dropped Thursday to the lowest tally since December, as the country’s vaccination campaign continued to stride forward, with more than 4.8 million citizens receiving both doses. There were 374 people in serious condition, including 218 on ventilators.

Since the start of the pandemic 833,456 people in Israel have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 6,533 active patients.

Of the 39,677 virus tests conducted on Wednesday, about 1.3% returned positive — amounting to 489 new cases, continuing the steep decline since January when the positive test rate reached over 10%.

Another 23 people died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with an additional 21 fatalities reported by Thursday evening, bringing the toll to 6,220.

The virus’s basic reproduction number, representing the average number of people each virus carrier infects, was given as 0.57. Any figure under 1 means the outbreak is abating. The figure represents the situation as of 10 days ago due to the incubation period.

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