Israelis began celebrating Independence Day on Wednesday with trips to parks and the start of the annual Air Force flyover.
Festivities kicked off on Tuesday night with a torch-lighting ceremony and fireworks as the country transitioned from a solemn Memorial Day.
Families throng to national parks with barbecues and army bases are opened to the public.
At the President’s residence in Jerusalem, 120 military servicemen were given badges of honor for outstanding service. President Isaac Herzog used the occasion to call for national unity.
“The wonderful Israeli mosaic, which includes Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians, religious and secular, traditional and Orthodox, veterans and immigrants – from all worldviews and lifestyles – this mosaic is our unique strength, and is our miracle,” Herzog said.
Participating in the national flyover for the first time are aircraft from the US, Britain, Germany and Italy. In addition to Israeli Air Force’s fighter jets and helicopters, the aerial parade will include police and firefighting aircraft. One Apache helicopter was forced to land early near Herzliya over a malfunction.
The annual Bible Quiz for Jewish high school students from around is underway in Jerusalem. The winner and first runner-up will receive a four-year scholarship to any Israeli university.
Later in the day, Herzog will present the annual Israel Prize to five Israelis for lifetime achievements in different areas.
This year’s recipients are Professor Michal Schwartz for her pioneering research into the connection between the brain and the immune system, Druze writer Amal Nasser-el Din, Rachel Haber, who chairs the Matnat Chaim kidney donation organization, and Mobileye founder and CEO Amnon Shashua.
Singer Shlomo Artzi was also offered an Israel Prize, but said social divisions made him uncomfortable receiving it. The prize will instead be given to singer Yossi Levi, who is better known by Israelis as “Daklon.”