Torch lighters for Independence Day chosen to highlight October 7 heroism

This year’s ceremony, which will be prerecorded without an audience, will include soldiers, medical personnel and civilians who saved lives during the Hamas massacre

Miriam Peretz holds a torch during the Israeli 66th Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on May 5, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Miriam Peretz holds a torch during the Israeli 66th Independence Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on May 5, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli Independence Day ceremony will be held this year with a special format to accommodate the country’s ongoing war against Hamas and the solemn atmosphere across the nation in light of the terror group’s October 7 massacre and the ongoing hostage crisis, Transportation Minister Miri Regev announced Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference, Regev, who is the minister in charge of state ceremonies, said: “There won’t be celebrations this year like last year. It’s difficult for us to celebrate during a war and while 133 hostages are still being held captive by Hamas.”

Unlike previous years, Regev said this year’s ceremony will be prerecorded and held without an audience “because the war is still ongoing and we don’t know how the different fronts will develop.”

Independence Day starts this year on the eve of May 13.

The Independence Day ceremony traditionally features a  torch-lighting portion in which 12 Israelis who are considered exemplary citizens are chosen to light a torch. This year’s torch holders were selected for their “heroism” on or in relation to October 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253.

“Choosing torch holders among thousands of nominations is an impossible task,” Regev said. “This year each torch will be lit by a group.”

Transportation Minister Miri Regev speaks to the media after a court hearing at the Magistrate’s Court in Tel Aviv, January 31, 2024 (Flash90)

The “security forces” torch will be lit by representatives from the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet, the Mossad, and Israel Police. Representing the IDF will be Cpt. Shavit Ben Moshe, who fought terrorists on October 7 while his brother was killed. Deputy Commissioner Amir Cohen, who was among the first to understand the extent of the Hamas attack and called in reinforcements, will represent the police. “Ayin,” the head of the Shin Bet’s operational division, who commanded a small special forces unit on October 7, will represent the organization. Representing the Mossad is “Gimmel,” an officer who led a mass recruitment operation concerning Iran.

The “rescuers” torch will be lit by civilians who acted outstandingly on October 7. The torch-holders chosen are Youssef Elziadna, a Bedouin minibus driver from Rahat who saved 30 people from the Nova Festival while one family member of his was killed and four were kidnapped; Rabbi Shahar Botzhek from Ofakim, who fought against Hamas terrorists even after being injured; Nasreen Youssef, a Druze woman from Yated who assisted in interrogating arrested terrorists; and Rami Davidian from Moshav Patish, who led rescue missions on October 7 that saved over 700 people, according to Ynet.

The “local security team” torch will be lit by Inbal Liberman from Kibbutz Nir Am, who on the morning of October 7 directed the members of her Kibbutz’s security team to ambush incoming terrorists, saving many lives; Barak Shalom from Kibbutz Alumim, who led the fight against Hamas terrorists in his Kibbutz; Avichai Elia from the Havot Yair outpost, who fought alongside 9 of his comrades armed only with rifles, and was severely injured; and Tal Levit from Metula, whose house was directly hit by a rocket from Lebanon but has remained to protect his town alongside the rest of the local security team.

The “rescue forces” torch will be lit by medical and rescue personnel who participated in rescue efforts on October 7. This group will include Oshrit Hadad, a Magen David Adom paramedic, who set up alongside other medics a field hospital on October 7, treating dozens of injured people; Dr. Tamar Shlezinger, while volunteering at a United Hatzalah hotline, received a call from Michael and Amalia Idan, whose parents were murdered and their little sister Abigail was abducted, and maintained composure, encouraged, and calmed them until they were rescued; Nurit Iran Cohen, a Zaka volunteer who went through burnt homes to help recover dead bodies; and Yoel Damari, the commander of a fire station, who assisted special forces in recapturing the Sderot police station after it was occupied by terrorists.

A “hasbara” torch will be lit by Yoseph Haddad, an Arab-Israeli influencer who is outspoken online for his support of the country, and Ella Keinan, and influencer who came up with the “hamasisisis” hashtag.

Yoseph Haddad. (Courtesy)

Regev announced last month that instead of taking place at its traditional venue at the Mount Herzl National Cemetery in Jerusalem, this year’s ceremony will take place in an altered format to honor those who fell in the Hamas massacre of October 7.

The traditional torches, which are usually lit at the ceremony on Mount Herzl, will instead be lit inside the Gaza border communities attacked on October 7, as well as on IDF bases that were targeted in the Hamas attack and suffered heavy losses

In March, Regev announced that the traditional fireworks display would also be scrapped, and urged municipal leaders to follow suit and cancel the fireworks portion of their local festivities as well.

There has been concern for years over the impact the fireworks have on military veterans and others with PTSD from wars or terror attacks.

The Israeli Air Force will also not hold its annual flyover, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant decided.

The IDF said last month that the flyby, as well as the Navy’s flotilla in Eilat, will not be held, due to the military’s focus on the war, and as per the recommendation of IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar and Navy chief Vice Adm. David Saar Salama.


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