BEERSHEBA (Apr. 16)
Two hundred thousand Israelis and visitors from abroad Jammed into Beersheba today to watch a display on Israel’s 16th Independence Day of the deterrent power which has kept the Arabs at bay for those 16 years. A spectacular aerial demonstration by 220 military planes marked the start of the 57-minute parade in a mighty show of Israel’s striking forces on land and in the air.
On the reviewing stand were a host of Israeli dignitaries, led by President Shazar, Premier Levi Eshkol, Knesset Speaker Kaddish Luz, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Mrs. Vera Weizmann and Mrs. Izhak Ben-Zvi, the widows of Israel’s first two Presidents, and Moshe Sharett, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, representing the Zimist movement.
(In Washington, the White House today released the following message sent to Israel’s President Shazar by President Johnson: “I take pleasure in extending to Your Excellency and to the people of Israel warm congratulations on the 16th anniversary of the independence of Israel. I also join the people of the United States in expressing our gratification that the first year of your Presidency has been marked in every field of national endeavor by a further growth of Israel’s notable achievements over the past decade and a half.”)
Israeli helicopters flying at a low altitude led the Air Force fly-past. The planes in the display included Fougas, Magister Israel made jets spelling out the initials of the fighting branches. These were followed by Mystere interceptors, helicopters and Vautoure fighters. Also in line were Mirage jets, followed by transports and four-engined Stratocruisers. The relatively slow speeds of the Stratocrusiers dramatized the speed of the Jets.
GROUND UNITS LED BY TANKS; INFANTRY, NAHAL GROUPS, PARATROOPS MARCH
As the last waves of the jet fighters passed by, the first units of the armored columns approached the stand. These groups included reconnaissance Jeeps, armored infantry, recoilless guns mounted on jeeps, anti-tank missiles, mortars and a first showing in Israel of a group of 155-millimeter seli-propelled guns. Then followed solid columns of French tanks, United States Sherman tanks, and British Centurion tanks. As the thunder of the tank passage faded, the army units saluted the President, Premier and Chief of Staff.
Colorful flag-bearers and bands headed the infantry column which consisted of cadets, air cadets and naval units, engineers and women’s units, followed by infantry companies, border police and more infantry marchers. Units of Nahal, the border settlement defense groups, both boys and girls, marched by, followed by military and civil police, communications units and youth battalion units. Paratroopers wearing their red berets closed the long parade.
Elsewhere in Israel, the day was observed with dancing and singing in the streets. In cities, traffic was banned for the festivities. At the Tel Aviv seashore, some 200, 000 watched a pageant demonstrating the arrival of “illegal” ships with immigrants, recalling the pre-State fight to bring in the remnants of Hitler’s holocaust. Intercepting “British” destroyers and coastal patrols simulated the battle of the Mandatory authorities to stop such immigration.
Fireworks displays and huge searchlights marked the holiday throughout Israel as the festivities continued into the night.