JERUSALEM (May. 1)
Tens of thousands of Israelis paid tribute today to the nearly 14,000 Israeli soldiers who died in four wars and a war of attrition since the Jewish State was founded 31 years ago. (See separate story.) Sirens wailing all over the country at precisely 11 a. m. local time signaled the beginning of Memorial Day observances which, traditionally, precede Independence Day that begins at sundown today and continues through tomorrow.
At military cemeteries and military bases bereaved families and friends of the deceased gathered along with representatives of the government and national institutions for solemn memorial services. The EI Moleh Rahamim prayer was recited and wreaths were laid on gravesites. Speakers stressed that this was the first Memorial Day that found Israel formally at peace with one of its Arab neighbors.
Premier Menachem Begin, addressing an assembly at the military cemetery in Safad took note of the treaty just signed with "one of our strongest and greatest neighbors, "Egypt. Israel’s national objective, he said, was life with liberty, security and honor. "We have now taken the decisive step toward achieving this aim. We have done all we could to ensure that the wars in which these boys and men fell will be the last."
At ceremonies on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman noted that Israel’s fallen soldiers had one thing in common: "The vision of resurrection. Because they cannot say it themselves, we must say it for them. They did not fall for the sake of victory alone but rather for the end to all wars and for the advent of peace."
Weizman hailed the peace treaty with Egypt as "the beginning of the rood" and pledged that Israel would do all it could to make peace with its other neighbors. The Defense Minister also referred to last week’s terrorist outrage at Nahariya. He warned those responsible for it that "these acts will only serve to strengthen our determination to overcome the trials facing us."
13 BEACONS KINDLED
Other Cabinet ministers spoke at memorial ceremonies elsewhere in the country, among them Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon and Interior Minister Yosef Burg. Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin and Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir attended the Air Force ceremonies. They did not come as ministers but as bereaved family members. Tamir mourned his deceased son. Yadin paid respects to his brother, killed in Israel’s War for Independence.
Memorial Day ended with the kindling of 13 beacons on Mt. Herzl instead of the usual 12. The 13th represents Israel’s sacrifices for peace. The ceremony was attended by the seven Soviet Jewish Prisoners of Conscience who arrived in Israel this week after nearly a decade in Soviet prisons.
GREETINGS FROM SOVIET GEORGIA JEWS
Begin and President Yitzhak Navon received a cable of congratulations from six Jews in Soviet Georgia, among them the brothers Isai and Grigory Goldstein. Their message celebrated "the peace treaty with Egypt and the release of seven Prisoners of Zion."They cautioned, however, that the Soviet’s basic policy toward aliya activists has not changed and that Moscow released prisoners only when it was to its advantage. They noted that Ida Nudel, Anatoly Shcharansky, Vladimir Slepak and losif Begun were only a few of those who still remained in prison or internal exile for their Zionist views.
About 50,000 people are expected to gather in the center of Jerusalem tonight and tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day. The streets have been closed to traffic and converted to a carnival midway. Seven stages have been built where leading Israeli artists will perform. Parties marking Independence Day, will be held to night in 16 community centers throughout the city. There will be fireworks displays, campfires and organized entertainment until dawn.
Tomorrow’s major events in the capital include the World Jewish Bible Quiz for youngsters from Israel and overseas and the awards of the Israel Prize to nine recipients for excellence in the fields of education, science, theater, Jewish studies and physical culture. Navon will hold a reception for the diplomatic corps at his residence.
In Tel Aviv, Independence Day celebrations will center on the Kikar Malchei Yisrael, the city’s new central square where municipal officials have organized "giant happenings." Tel Aviv will combine Independence Day themes with observance of its own 70th anniversary.