JERUSALEM (Apr. 30)
Israel prepared today to celebrate the 31st anniversary of its independence, the first at peace with one of its Arab neighbors, and also its annual day of remembrance for the nation’s war dead. Memorial day begins this evening at the Western Wall where President Yitzhak Navon and Chief of Staff Gen. Raphael Eitan will conduct ceremonies honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers. Premier Menachem Begin will deliver a televised message to the bereaved families.
Memorial services will be held throughout Israel and at all military bases tomorrow. Flags will be flown at half mast and all places of entertainment will be closed until sundown when fireworks displays will mark the beginning of Independence Day to be celebrated tomorrow night and Wednesday.
Begin’s Independence Day message to the Jewish people was released this morning. He cited the “very difficult” events of the past few months when “doubts were cast on our dedication to peace. Baseless charges were laid,” he said. “We had to hear a condemnation not only from foreigners but also, and even more painful, from some of our own people. But truth will always prevail. Justice triumphs. We must always insure that truth and justice do not prevail too late,” he said.
Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, also delivered an Independence Day message. “Peace is now at our doorstep: To maintain it, let us unite in building it,” he said. “Let us hope that we will now be able to attend with less pressure to some of the most urgent Zionist tasks which have, until now, been postponed or only partially attended to.” He listed those tasks as aliya aimed at doubling the Jewish population of Israel “within the coming generation”; bridging the social gap in Israel; and advancing Jewish education abroad.
This year, Independence Day will be opened officially with the kindling of 13 beacons in the presence of the seven Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience who have just arrived in Israel. In past years, only 12 beacons have been lighted. The 13th will represent Israel’s sacrifice for peace. The emphasis on this Independence Day will be on the peace just concluded with Egypt and the hope of broadening it to include Israel’s other neighbors.