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Israel Marks Her 21st Birthday Festively–but Last Year’s Ebullience is Absent

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Israel’s 21st anniversary was celebrated throughout the State today but without the ebullience that colored last year’s observance, which was the first since the victory in the Six-Day War. There were traces of grimness on faces in the streets.

Thousands flooded Jerusalem which “was turned into one huge amusement park,” cabled JTA’s Jerusalem correspondent Amos Ben-Vered. Traffic was barred from the streets, and most corners and squares became dancing grounds. Itzhak Shargil reported from Tel Aviv that there was dancing in the streets and squares of townships and cities and there was joy in settlements along the Beisan Valley borderline.

“Everyone was alert, knowing they had to be ready to find shelter from Arab artillery. But the singing, dancing, poetry recitation and drinking–of fruit juice–went on. There was a general feeling of relaxation only 12 or so hours after one of the usual morning attacks in this section,” he said. “There were some shots and shells, but they were sporadic and ignored. Beisan township itself was attacked by a number of Katyusha shells but luckily they exploded in empty lots and caused neither damage nor casualties.”

In Jerusalem on the eve of the independence celebration there was fireworks, and today more than 6,500 youngsters, smartly stepping members of the Gadna para-military youth battalions, marched through the streets as crowds cheered and four French-built Fouga Magister jet trainers performed aerial acrobatics trailing streamers of rose-colored smoke overhead. The youngsters carried no weapons but were attired in special dress uniforms. They marched in military formations and took the salute of Premier Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Chief of Staff, Gen. Bar-Lev on an improvised reviewing stand. The march lasted three hours over a route through Jerusalem’s festively decorated streets to the Old City walls, ending on Mount Zion. President Zalman Shazar received 100 Israeli soldiers who were cited for distinguished service in battle during the past year. Three thousand immigrants who arrived in Jerusalem during the year were invited to the Hebrew University amphitheater to see a performance by Israeli artists.

Why then some grimness of mood? Israelis are aware of the ever-rising tensions on the borders and cease-fire line with Jordan and at the Suez Canal, and listen and wait for the endless news of casualties, deaths and damage. The threat to security, Big Four meetings in New York, apparent distance from peace, tension in the occupied territories and darkening clouds of hostility in the Mideast all contributed to a dampening of the nation’s mood as compared to last year.

Foreign Minister Abba Eban asked assembled foreign diplomats in the Knesset today to “please tell your governments and peoples what Israel’s policy is. Our policy is peace.” Mr. Eban made his request in the course of his address to the foreign diplomatic corps.

Fourteen-year-old Zohar Noam who was born in America but has lived in Israel since the age of four won the International Bible championship today, beating a field of 26 Jewish youths from 15 countries. He became the youngest person ever to win the event which is held annually as part of Independence Day festivities. His victory was a close one.

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