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Sorrow gives way to joy as Independence Day begins (JERUSALEM POST) By NINA GILBERT AND JPOST.COM STAFF 05/11/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1115777944271 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Canadian philanthropist Charles Bronfman has become the first non- Israeli to be given a torch-lighting honor at the opening ceremony for Israel´s Independence Day celebrations at Mount Herzl on Wednesday night.

The theme of the 57th anniversary celebrations was "Lifetime Alliance," and 16 people who have made different kinds of personal investment for the state were honored.

Another high-profile torch lighter was Azzam Azzam, the Israeli Druse who was released in December from eight years of Egyptian imprisonment on spying allegations. Azzam said he "never dreamt that he would be released, let alone be chosen to light a torch." He said he would dedicate his torch to "freedom, friendship and the people of Israel."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said he had acceded to a request from several Knesset faction leaders to give Azzam aid from Knesset funds to help ease his financial situation until he can reach a settlement with the government for compensation for his years in prison.

Addressing a large crowd at the start of the Independence Day ceremony at the military cemetery in Jerusalem, Parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin described the sharp transition between the two national holidays, Remembrance Day and Independance Day:

"There is no more Israeli moment than this moment—the sharp transition from the lit celebrations and within touching distance the shades of bereavement; here it is Independence Day Eve, and there, opposite, it is still, and will be throughout the year, Remembrance Day."

Rivlin warned that divisions over the pullout scheduled for August could lead to civil war:

"I fear a rift that could bring disaster upon us all. I fear grating voices that turn their back to the covenant binding us to the land, from the mocking towards those who love and are faithful to the land, of the atmosphere of crossing boundaries that were never crossed, of voices of refusal and disengagement from the country."

"More than anything I fear that this will be a year of civil war," Rivlin said. "How will we stand here on the 58th Independence Day if this coming year, brothers will spill each other´s blood?"

Despite the specter of politics, the general mood was one of optimism and inclusion.

Bronfman was honored for his wide philanthropy in Israel including the birthright program that has brought 80,000 Jewish youth for visits here in the past five years.

Another foreign resident, Metuka Benjamin, was being honored for her educational leadership of pupils in the US that encourages ties with Israel.

Patsy Landa, a former Canadian, was chosen to light a torch to recognize the work of the Landa fund for helping education underprivileged youth. Her husband, Benny Landa, founded the Indigo Company. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 05/11/05)


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