Israel Celebrates Independence Day Today; President Hopes for Peace

Israel’s desire for peace with the Arab world was stressed here today by President Zalman Shazar in a declaration to the nation and to the world issued on the eve of the celebration of Israel’s 18th anniversary of its birth. The celebration was preceded today with memorial rites throughout the country, observing the national Memorial Day in honor of the Israelis who lost their lives in the War of Liberation in 1948-49.

In his Independence Day declaration, President Shazar said that “the winds of change now blowing throughout the world” cannot fail, sooner or later, to influence the Middle East also, including the Arab nations hostile to Israel. “Israel, ” he said, “is ready to devote its best energies to the task of seeking peace, nor will we tire of issuing the call for peace and exploring every avenue in this direction.”

All of Israel halted today activities of every nature except for the mourning rites which took place in every city, settlement and kibbutz. When the solemn mourning period had ended, with the blowing of sirens, many leading Israelis took their places atop Mount Herzl, where an official state ceremony inaugurated the Independence Day celebration.

Twelve children, all offspring of Israeli war veterans, all born on the day Israel proclaimed its independence in 1948, lighted torches symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. As the lights flared forth, a military guard of honor sounded a tattoo at the National Stadium, where President Shazar placed the emblem of the defense of Jerusalem on the flag there honoring Israel’s defense forces. Most members of Israel’s Cabinet, and many thousands of Israelis as well as visitors from abroad, watched the military ceremonies at the stadium. Among them was former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who had announced he will stay away from Haifa tomorrow, when the annual Independence Day military parade will be held.

When the twin ceremonies, at Mount Herzl and at the National Stadium, were over, all of Jerusalem went wild with celebration. Multicolored flares and fireworks lighted the skies over the capital, open-air film and theatrical and musical programs were conducted throughout the city, and the festivities were enlivened with dancing in the streets. Vast crowds started to leave Jerusalem around midnight for Haifa, taking along children, food baskets and other paraphernalia, ready to line up for tomorrow’s big military parade.

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