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Main Independence Day event to forgo fireworks this year, due to veterans with PTSD

Torch-lighting event at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem is a staple of the festivities; culture minister says this year’s event aims at inclusivity

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper at the Khan theatre in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper at the Khan theatre in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

For the first time, the nation’s central Independence Day ceremony on May 4 will not include a fireworks display, due to concerns over the impact they have on military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper made the announcement at a press conference ahead of the Independence Day celebrations, calling on local authorities to follow suit and scrap fireworks displays.

“The ceremony will emphasize the common good,” Tropper said, declaring that “the torch-lighting ceremony belongs to everyone, in every political situation.”

This year, Tropper said, he envisioned “a kind of alternative ceremony, an alternative to the foul wind of degrading vulgarity and division that often blows throughout the year.” He announced that this year’s theme was “One hand meets another.”

One of the main events in Israel for Independence Day is the traditional torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, which regularly features soldiers performing elaborate foot drills and concludes with a fireworks display.

This year’s festivities will not include an address from the prime minister — a return to the previous custom, which had recently been changed under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will attend, but won’t speak.

People watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel’s 71st Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 8, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

There has been concern for years over the impact that Independence Day fireworks have on military veterans and others with PTSD from wars or terror attacks. Another date of concern has traditionally been the Purim festival, which some mark with the use of firecrackers.

Following Tropper’s announcement, the head of the Efrat settlement local council, Oded Ravivi, backed the decision, saying that there would be no fireworks show in his council, according to Maariv.

Idan Kleiman, chairman of the Handicapped IDF Veterans Organization, welcomed the decision, calling it the “important and humane” thing to do.

“On behalf of IDF veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder specifically and IDF veterans as a whole, I would like to thank Tropper for his decision to cancel the fireworks display during [this year’s] Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl,” he said.

“Injured IDF veterans who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder have greatly suffered over the years from the noise and bursts of light created by the fireworks, which overwhelms them with the trauma they experienced during their military service. The decision by Minister Tropper is an important and humane one,” Kleiman added.

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