Israel plans to celebrate 60th birthday in big way

May 6th, 2008 - 10:07 am ICT by admin  

Tel Aviv, May 6 (DPA) Israel turns 60 this month, and despite its troubled history and the uncertainty in the Middle East - or perhaps because of it - the country plans to celebrate its birthday in a big way. The festivities are to cost almost 100 million shekels (nearly $28 million), sparking fierce criticism by taxpayers that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

The programme includes dozens of events, some of which are to continue into the next year. A central theme of many of them is set to be Israeli children.

Israel was founded May 14, 1948, when its first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared statehood as Britain’s UN mandate over historic Palestine was expiring.

Holidays in Israel, however, are marked according to the Hebrew calendar, so the celebrations are to begin May 7, the eve of what in Israel is known as Independence Day.

Fireworks are to lit up the skies from Eilat in the south to Nahariya in the north. Israeli artists are to give performances on massive stages to be set up in town centres throughout the country.

Three large 60th-anniversary parties are scheduled to be held in Tel Aviv’s central Rabin Square and at Nitsanim and Ahziv, two key beaches near Ashdod in the south and Haifa in the north, May 9.

As part of dozens of additional projects, children have begun collecting 1.5 million marbles, symbolising the 1.5 Jewish children who died in the Nazi Holocaust. Artists plan to use these marbles to construct a memorial to them.

A three-day Bedouin festival in the southern town of Rahat, starting on Independence Day, is to symbolise the strive for tolerance and co-existence.

A 60-km-long new bicycle route is to connect between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and a path of equal length will be opened around the Sea of Galilee. Some 60 new picnic parks will be inaugurated.

A highlight of the celebrations is a three-day international conference hosted by President Shimon Peres.

Many of the world’s “who’s who” have said they will attend the festivities, including US President George W. Bush, former British prime minister Tony Blair, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former Soviet president Michael Gorbachev.

Prominent figures from the private sector who will attend include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The May 13-15 conference, “Facing Tomorrow”, is to debate the future of the world community, the Jewish people and Israel.

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