Sorrow gives way to joy as Independence Day begins (JERUSALEM POST) By NINA GILBERT AND JPOST.COM STAFF 05/11/05)
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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
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
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,
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
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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