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President Rivlin hosts his final Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony

(JERUSALEM) – President Reuven Rivlin hosted the “All Israel from Jerusalem” event today, April 15, in the gardens of Beit HaNasi for the seventh and last time of his term of office. The service honored 120 outstanding soldiers for their service and was also presided over by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to celebrate Israel’s 73rd birthday.

President Reuven Rivlin presides over the Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony. (Photo by Mark Neyman/GPO)

The event opened with a traditional jet aircraft fly-by in honor of the outstanding soldiers of all branches of the IDF. The lead pilot gave the traditional greeting to the president and the outstanding soldiers over the radio as they flew over Beit HaNasi, saying, “Mr. President, Chief of Staff, we pilots of the Israel Air Force wish you Chag Atzmaut Sameach on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces.”

“On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish you, the pilots of the Israel Air Force, the men and women of the Israel Defence Forces and its commanders on land, sea and air – Chag Atzmaut Sameach!” the president replied.

Immediately after jets flew past, the president and the chief of staff reviewed the 120 outstanding soldiers, who were selected and recommended by their commanders to receive the commendation from the president for their exceptional service to both the IDF and the State of Israel. They then gathered for the traditional photograph of the 120 outstanding soldiers with the president and the chief of staff.

The first part of the broadcast, which was pre-recorded, was hosted by Rotem Abuav and included singers Eliad Nachum and Ester Rada as well as a special tribute to songwriter Avihu Medina. The piece was a special musical salute to medical teams, teaching staff and volunteers during the past year’s coronavirus crisis.

During the live ceremony, President Rivilin said: “On this Yom Ha’atzmaut, you give us 120 reasons to be proud, 120 reasons to believe, 120 outstanding and wonderful men and women. I look at you, with your gleaming eyes and bated breath, the dew of youth still on your heads. And I know that even if it seems that we, as a people, find it difficult to agree on a direction, we have not lost our way, we have not lost our compass.”

Rivlin reflected on how far the State of Israel had come. “When I was a child, just a few streets away from this place, the State of Israel, the Jewish and democratic state was a dream,” he recalled. “I was nine years old when I saw the flag raised for the first time up high. We were like dreamers. We could not believe that this historic right fell to us. You cannot imagine how exciting it was. Despite the heavy battles, despite the worrying news from the front, despite life under siege in Jerusalem, we were so proud, so happy, to see the soldiers of the defense forces, later the Israel Defense Forces, in their improvised khaki uniforms, determined to protect the dream that became, against all odds, our reality. That spirit, the spirit of mission, the belief that our way was just and the promise to defend the Jewish and democratic state, to defend our home – that spirit still remains with us. You are that spirit. You are the compass. You are the flag.”

Rivlin continued in his praise of the soldiers. “You, the outstanding soldiers, are beyond value. Among you there are soldiers and officers from the center and from the peripheries, from cities and villages, all of Israel’s tribes. You are all the face of the IDF, the people’s army, and we must ensure that the people’s army is part of the people, all its parts,” he said. 

Chief of Staff Kochavi took his time at the podium to also praise the IDF. “The connection formed between soldiers during their service in the IDF strengthens Israeli statehood, which is a strategic asset to the country,” he said.

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