Hundreds of thousands of Israelis headed to parks and nature reserves across the country on Thursday as the nation celebrated its 74th Independence Day, an event kicked off Wednesday night with the annual Torch-Lighting Ceremony.
Twelve people chosen from various sectors of the country are selected to each light a torch, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, all of whom were thus honored due to their extraordinary contributions to Israeli life.
A record-breaking 600 Israelis joined together for the largest-ever “mangal” (BBQ) in the country’s history, with a 15-meter-long grill on which 400 kilos of meat were roasted for consumption by members of Kibbutz B’ror Hayil, the venue for the event.
Others were content to bring their family grills to the parks, where their children happily sprayed each other with white foam — another unique Israeli Independence Day tradition.
President Isaac Herzog, however, took time out at the official presidential residence in Jerusalem to present certificates of honor to 120 outstanding IDF soldiers together with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.
Others made sure to keep their eyes trained on the blue skies overhead, waiting for the annual Israel Air Force flyover, an event that takes the nation’s military aircraft on a route from one end of the country to the other.
For the first time ever, an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) also took part in the national flyover.
There were also special guests from other countries: 45 teens ages 14 to 18 who came from 20 Jewish communities around the world to participate in the annual International Bible Contest (Chidon HaTanach) that takes place each year on Israel’s Independence Day.
The visiting teens spent the past two weeks touring the Jewish State in a special Bible camp that was organized by Israel’s Education Ministry.
Two teens – Hillel Cohen and Dvir Merzbach — tied for first place this year.