President Reuven Rivlin hosted the annual Independence Day ceremony at his official residence Thursday morning to award the army’s annual citations for distinguished service to 120 soldiers, as the prime minister promised that peace will eventually come and suggested reviving annual military parades in the capital.
The event began at 9:30 a.m. and was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Former president Shimon Peres was also present at the event.
During the event, the four leaders discussed their fond childhood memories of Independence Day, with Netanyahu recalling the military parades once held every year in the capital.
“I have a suggestion,” Netanyahu said. “Let’s bring back the military marches on Independence Day.”
Netanyahu also said he believed Israel would eventually be able to make peace with its regional neighbors: “We will reach reconciliation with our neighbors,” on the basis of “our strength,” he predicted. Until that day, he added, one of Israel’s most exceptional achievements was its capacity “to defend ourselves, by ourselves” against all threats.
Rivlin, in his remarks, said Israel “has had its crises, and perhaps there will be others.”
“Every generation has its challenges, but each has triumphed, with dignity. [Israel] is strong, robust, and solid — and is only getting better,” the president added.
Watch the event here:
The 120 Israeli soldiers honored during the ceremony, hailing from 24 different countries, included 77 men and 43 women.
Meanwhile, the hallmark flyovers of combat planes and helicopters began 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.
Tens of thousands of Israelis headed to Israel’s national parks to barbecue and hike on Thursday morning, with as many as 25,000 spending the night on the beaches of the Sea of Galilee.
Israelis marked the annual celebrations with all-night parties and other events throughout the country Wednesday night.
In Ashdod, Beersheba, Jerusalem, Haifa and other major cities, performers entertained crowds through the night.