Friday, May 9, 2008

Independence Day in Haifa

There we are – it’s been and gone! The rapid change of moods from the somber Remembrance Day to the enjoyment of Independence Day has once again passed over successfully in spite of the 11 “hot” terror threats.

With a sudden burst of enthusiasm we invited friends round to an “open house”, to eat and watch the traditional start to the Independence Day celebrations of the torch lighting ceremony on TV. Most of the invitees said the perhaps wouldn’t come as there were firework displays, family commitments, etc.

In the end everyone did turn up even though the last couple arrived at close to midnight but there was still enough pizza and wine to go round. We eventually got to bed around 1:30 am.

I find the torch lighting ceremony quite emotional with each of those invited telling the audience about their background. Immediately prior to lighting the torch they declare “To the glory of the State of Israel”

This year the emphasis on the torch invitees was on education and voluntary work and included young and old, Jews, Christians, Druze, Muslim and Bedouin. A reflection of the multiculturism that is so natural in Israel.

Amongst the torch lighters were:-
Ralph Goldman, 93, honorary executive president of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He lit the torch with Shmuel Falik, 13, of Miami, who was born on Independence Day.

Galila Ron-Feder-Amit, one of Israel's most prominent and renowned children's book authors, a foster mother of children from broken homes and a volunteer helping underprivileged kids. She lit the torch with Ronni Ackerman, 13, an actress in The Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth.

Ronny Douek, a businessman who has been working for 20 years now as a social entrepreneur for the welfare of children and youth. He lit the torch with Pnina Nivetzag, 18.5, a graduate of the Aharai! ("Follow me!") youth movement.

Dr. Erika Landau, who has been working for 40 years now to educate generations of gifted and talented children to lead in all areas of life. She lit the torch with Zurarish Weba, 18, who is about to join the IDF and is active among youths who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.

Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, CEO of the National Council for the Child, which engages in a variety of activities for the sake of Israel's children. He lit the torch with eight-year-old Niv Caspi, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom near the Gaza Strip.

Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, founder of the Migdal Ohr education network, which is active in the fields of education, welfare, aiding children at risk, immigrant absorption and bringing people closer together. He lit the torch with Tamir Abukasis, 13.5, an eight-grader at the Bnei Akiva yeshiva, who escaped a Qassam rocket attack in Sderot but lost his sister Ella who protected him with her body.

Uri Jakobovitch, an agriculturist at the Sdeh Bar farm for youth at risk, where he arrived about four and a half years ago in the footsteps of his older brothers. He lit the torch with Reuven Bentolila, 17, who immigrated to Israel from France in 1999 and was evacuated from Gush Katif as part of the 2005 disengagement plan.

A Bedouin who lit the torch had her car torched in her village; such is the pressure that those who want to co-exist in peace come under from their own communities.

This is the face of Israel

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