Israelis set to celebrate Independence Day

May 8th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by admin  

Tel Aviv, May 8 (DPA) Israelis were set Thursday to flock to parks and picnic sites to celebrate the country’s 60th independence day, which kicked off Wednesday night with a state ceremony in Jerusalem and public events in city squares throughout the country. The Israeli Air Force is scheduled to give aerial displays over the skies of the country, and dozens of naval vessels are to sail from the port city of Haifa in the north to that of Ashdod in the south.

People are also expected to flock to nature reserves, picnic sites and museums, which are open to the public without payment for the occasion.

Thousands of police, including special units, are to secure the events.

According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, road blockades will be set up at city entrances and beefed up forces have begun patrolling the border with the West Bank and Gaza.

The police have raised their alert to the second-highest level, amid warnings that Arab militants might try to mar the festivities with a major attack.

Festivities began Wednesday night, at the end of a 24-hour day of mourning for the more than 20,000 soldiers and civilians killed in fighting that preceded and followed Israel’s creation.

“There are nations richer than the State of Israel, there are nations quieter than the State of Israel, and there are nations bigger than the State of Israel, but there is no nation in the world like the State of Israel,” Knesset (parliament) Speaker Dalia Itzik said during the state ceremony show on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

“Yes, there are flaws, there is still a lot to do,” she said. “But behind the flaws is a terrific country.”

After the state ceremony, celebrations began in city squares and parks throughout Israel, with fireworks lighting up the skies, sound and light shows in many places and popular singers performing at many of the events.

Israel declared independence May 14, 1948, but Independence Day is celebrated each year according to the Hebrew calender.

Palestinians, for their part, are to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the 1948-49 war that followed Israel’s creation, known to them as the Nakba (Catastrophe), next Thursday with marches, rallies and an address by President Mahmoud Abbas.

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