TEL AVIV (May. 9)
A half-million rain-soaked viewers, including 20, 000 cheering tourists, watched Israel’s annual Independence Day parade today. The first downpour ever to hit the parade forced cancelation of part of a scheduled Air Force fly-past which was to have taken place before the first units of the ground parade began their march. The Air Force substituted a flight of jets forming the number “14” and two helicopters displaying Israel’s national flag for the parade opener.
President Izhak Ben-Zvi, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Chief of Staff Zvi Tzur and President Leon M’ba of Gabon and Moshe Sharett, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive were among the dignitaries on the reviewing stand who took the salute of the passing units. The viewers, many of them in light summer clothes, were soaked quickly when the rain came pelting down, but few left their viewing spots.
Twenty-nine heavy Centurion tanks rumbled down the parade lane, followed by light and medium Sherman tanks. Fifty armored vehicles roared and ploughed along the asphalt road. An armored infantry unit was the final display in the lead armored units. Then came the artillery. French guided anti-tank missiles and United States five-millimeter recoilless guns headed that section of the parade. Field artillery pieces followed including 25-pound guns, self-propelled 155-millimeter weapons, and heavy anti-aircraft guns.
When the infantry column approached the reviewing stand, the rain stopped and the skies cleared somewhat. Unit after unit of steel-helmeted khaki-clad troops marched along, followed by Air Force members in grey and Navy personnel in snow-white uniforms. Flowers were tossed at the girl marchers–the smartest marchers as usual. The infantry column included a unit of Druze and Bedouin tribesmen, border police, civil police, youth battalions, engineering and communication units, and two units of crack paratroopers.
Independence Day celebrations got underway last night. In cool weather, Israelis celebrated Independence Day in family gatherings and parties which did not break up until dawn. Many went directly from such celebrations to the parade site.
Haifa had a parade of folk dancers who pranced through the main streets, sweeping thousands of spectators into their parade. The Navy set up open house on its moored ships for children of Haifa. Beersheba had a children’s parade.