President Reuven Rivlin hosted the 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.
The Independence Day event began at 9:30 a.m. and was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“It is no secret, that during these celebratory moments, IDF soldiers and security forces are on high alert,” said Rivlin at the ceremony. “It is no secret that we are facing Iranian attempts to directly harm the State of Israel. Dear soldiers, we see the burden of responsibility placed on your young shoulders. Thank you.”
Ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, the military was preparing for the possibility of a direct attack by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ air force, in response to a strike on Iran’s air base in Syria earlier this month that was attributed to Israel.
Iranian officials have made increasingly bellicose remarks following the April 9 strike on the T-4 air base, near Palmyra in central Syria, which killed at least seven members of the IRGC, including the head of its drone program, Col. Mehdi Dehghan.
The annual musical event at the President’s Residence sees Israel’s leaders hand out commendations of excellence to troops, while reminiscing about their own military service.
Another staple of Independence Day celebrations, the annual Bible Quiz competition finals, are slated to take place after the presidential ceremony.
Crowds are expected at national parks and museums throughout the day — many of which are open without charge — and also IDF displays of jeeps, tanks and other equipment at bases throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the hallmark flyovers of combat planes and helicopters will begin over the country’s skies from 11 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.