The Jewish State celebrates 72 years of independence —under lockdown

Celebrations for Israel’s 72nd Independence Day began Tuesday evening at Jerusalem’s Mt Herzl with the traditional Torch-Lighting Ceremony in which 13 men and women lit 12 torches under the theme “Connections in Israeli Society.”

Due to the coronavirus restrictions, this year the event was pre-recorded and without an audience.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a video message: “My brothers and sisters, citizens of Israel, have not had such an independence day before. Physically we are apart but we are as close as we’ve ever been,” he said.

“Over the past few weeks, we have faced a historic test, we made decisions, taken steps and we have done it all together. We protected our moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas – because we have all internalized that in the coronavirus era, love is expressed by distance,” he added.

The torches were lit by renowned comedian and actor Tzipi Shavit; Adi Altschuler, who founded a youth movement for children with special needs and an initiative for Holocaust survivors to share their stories; Reina Abitbul, representing volunteers in Israeli hospitals and medical services; Israel Almasi, who founded a nationwide volunteer group; nurses Ahmed Balawneh and Yael Vilozni-Azulay; Eli Ben Shem, chairman of the Yad Labanim organization commemorating fallen soldiers and assisting bereaved families; Uri Cohen, founder of the Masa Israeli educational program; Lori Palatnik, an Orthodox Jewish outreach educator and founding director of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, and Prof. Galia Rahav, the Head of the Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratories at the Sheba Medical Center, who was part of establishing the hospital’s coronavirus ward.

Israel has imposed a closure starting Tuesday at 5 pm until Wednesday at 8 pm. Israelis will be allowed to leave their homes only to purchase medical and other essential supplies.