JERUSALEM — Israel’s leaders marked their country’s 64th year of independence on Thursday with a ceremony in Jerusalem, singing classical Hebrew songs and honoring outstanding soldiers. sraelis headed out to nature en masse on Thursday to mark the country’s 64th birthday with picnics and particularly barbecues, the activity most heavily associated with Independence Day. Hundreds of thousands visited the country’s national parks, heritage sites, museums and weapons exhibitions, which welcomed visitors and offered special activities throughout the day. With major routes congested, many also spent a considerable amount of time braving the heavy Independence Day traffic. Daytime celebrations in honor of Independence Day officially began at 9:30 on Thursday morning with a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. VIPs and political leaders were in attendance at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on the president’s.
Israelis flocked to beaches and thronged parks for barbecues across the nation, filling the air with the scent of grilled meat and charcoal. Military bases were open to visitors for the holiday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to award the Israel Prize in the evening, a prestigious honor in the fields of entertainment and academia.
Later in the day, Peres hosted foreign diplomats stationed in Israel at an Independence Day reception. According to Ynet News, Peres told the diplomats that Israel seeks peace and that its biggest challenge is to make peace with the Palestinians by convincing both sides that peace is worth paying for. Upon surmounting this challenge, Israel will be able to concentrate on building a better future for its children, Peres reportedly said. A flyover of combat planes and helicopters started off the festivities. The president, IDF chief of staff, prime minister and defense minister sang their favorite Independence Day songs with the IDF band and an accompaniment of singers. What the men lacked in singing ability, they certainly made up for in spirit.
The guests of honor were joined onstage by 120 outstanding IDF soldiers, who were presented with awards. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Israel. “For many around the world, Israel remains a beacon of hope and an inspiring example,” she said Wednesday in an official statement. Government statistics showed that Israel’s population grew by 137,500 since last year to 7,881,000. The Central Bureau of Statistics said 75 percent of the population is Jewish, 21 percent is Arab, with the remainder belonging to tiny minorities or immigrants who are not Jewish. Also, more than 500,000 Israeli citizens live as settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas “Palestinians” claim for their future state. While Independence Day is a joyful celebration in Israel, “Palestinians” will mark the creation of the Jewish state in mid-May with a day of mourning.
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