TEL AVIV (May. 4)
Israel’s 39th Independence Day Monday was sunny and warm. A relaxed, festive mood prevailed for hundreds of thousands of Israelis bent on getting to the beaches and picnic grounds. It was a day to ignore politics and enjoy the country’s only secular holiday.
By midday, police were reporting all parking lots full at the seashore and camping grounds. The Golan Heights and Upper Galilee were thronged with picnickers, undeterred by the several Katyusha rockets which exploded in the latter area during the night. They were fired from beyond the south Lebanon security zone and caused no casualties or damage.
Officially, the celebration began Monday night with the traditional kindling of 12 torches on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. The central one was lighted by Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel; the others by representatives of the arts — music, theater, cinema, dance, sculpture, painting and architecture. Their symbolism was not lost on those who remembered the emphasis on military might of earlier Independence Days.
Another tradition was the annual International Bible Quiz for youth and the presentation of the Israel Prize, both held in Jerusalem and broadcast on radio and television.
Aircraft, civilian and military, were on display to the public at Ben Gurion Airport, where normal operation were closed down for several hours for an air show featuring high altitude acrobatics by prototypes of the new Lavi fighter plane and short takeoff-and-landing aircraft, all made in Israel.
The only political note was sounded by Premier Yitzhak Shamir, who used an hour-long interview on Israel Radio to urge continuation of the unity coalition government for the remaining 18 months of its tenure.
Nevertheless, he accused his Labor coalition partners of “running amok” in their haste to convene an international conference for Middle East peace. He said Likud would examine all aspects of the issue but would not be pressured into accepting “peace at any price.”
There were strong political overtones in the widely advertised and subsidized marches by Likud and Gush Emunim activists in the West Bank. These were balanced, politically, by the 13th Hapoel Games, the international workers’ Olympics, at the Ramat Gan stadium. About 1,300 athletes from abroad participated.