Jerusalem, Israel, for the Yoms
as usual was overloaded with events,
many this year influenced in anticipation of
50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem.
Israeli flags are draped down the sides of buildings.
These are at the Israel Museum entrance
where the dome of the Shrine of the Book can be seen.
Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Remembrance Day
for fallen soldiers and victims of terror,
began Sunday night with memorials throughout Israel,
and were accompanied by prayers, speeches and memorial flames.
The official state ceremony seen live on television,
was held at the Kotel, the Western Wall,
where President Reuven Rivlin lit the memorial light.
Sponsored by the Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin,
a memorial service was held at Givat HaTachmoshet, Ammunition Hill,
the site of deadly fighting to defend Jerusalem in 1967.
The program in English was live-streamed
and seen by over 16,000 people around the world.
All day Monday, tens of thousands of Israelis visited cemeteries.
This cemetery has many graves from 1948-1950,
the first years that Jews could not get to
the Mount of Olives due to the Jordanian occupation
and had to find new places to bury their dead.
On Yom HaZikaron, a man prayed by a grave.
A small Israeli flag with a black ribbon attached,
and small bunch of flowers, yizkor, remembers
those much too young who died in war.
The cemetery is next to Harel Garden
and Memorial wall, where this lone wreath was placed.
Walk around the memorial and you can see
that Gush Etzion is 16 kilometers from Cinema City and
the Israeli Supreme Court and government offices.
Tens of thousands came to Har Herzl Military Cemetery
during the day, to place flowers and to mourn,
remembering those lost to war and terror.
The crowds thinned at end of day,
and all headed home from the Har Herzl Military Cemetery.
But as the sun set,
on another part of Har Herzl,
the lights went on this huge stage,
celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day.
This year for the first time two non-Israelis were selected
with the honor of lighting one of the 12 memorial flames,
Rabbi Marvin Hier and Michael Steinhardt,
seen here before the official program began.
The show is telecast live and seen by thousands,
but watching on TV you could not see them remove
the circle of fire used in one production number.
It is an extravaganza with set rituals,
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat broke with tradition
when he joined with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein
to light the official flame of Israel’s Independence Day.
Seats were at a premium, the flag waving,
cheering crowd did not need a lot of encouragement.
Besides the two Americans, I wanted to see Rabbanit Chana Henkin
who was honored as one of the twelve torch lighters,
one for each tribe of Israel.
Dr. Ahmed Eid, an Arab doctor, was another honoree.
The program featured songs and military colors.
For this shot, no seat in the stands would work,
only this overhead camera would do.
Afterwards celebrations went all night,
in too many locations to list, with prayers, songs and dancing.
The next day at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence,
120 outstanding soldiers were honored in the morning
and in the afternoon rows of diplomats came,
along with one young Presidential grandson,
to pay their respects to Israel and hear the Prime Minister
and President speak on theme,”next year in Jerusalem.”
While the heads of consuls and foreign military were at Beit Hanasi,
thousands of Israelis were in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park.
Most of the green spaces all over the country were full of Israelis.
On the radio were announcements of crowded roads to JNF parks.
This family brought a couch to Gan Sacher,
which is one way to make your holiday mangal, BBQ, feel like home.
I know this is getting way too long,
but there was so much more,
like the Bible Competition, free museums, and performances.
festive meals, and those IDF flyovers and stunts.
Israel, after 69 years
as President Rivlin said, is young for a country,
under constant threat and repeated attacks,
yet has accomplished so much.
So it was,
from memorials to celebrating independence,
so much happening in Jerusalem.