JERUSALEM (JTA) — First basketball star Omri Casspi and the president of Honduras. Now actress Mayim Bialik.
Israel’s annual Independence Day celebration on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, whose torchlighting ceremony is a highlight of the country’s civic calendar, has been beset by a number of high-profile cancellations and almost-cames.
Bialik had made a pitch to light a torch as the representative of Diaspora Jewry in a Facebook post. Hundreds of her followers reportedly sent nominations to the Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
But when she was chosen, she discovered that she would not be able to attend due to the shooting schedule for the popular television series “The Big Bang Theory,” where she plays nerdy neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler.
For the second year in a row, the Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols asked for nominations of a Diaspora Jew to light a torch. Now that Bialik has declined, there will be no Diaspora torch lighter.
Meanwhile, Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the National Basketball Association, missed his opportunity to light a torch in the April 18 ceremony.
Casspi had been asked but declined because his team, the Golden State Warriors, would not release him at the start of the playoffs to attend. On Sunday, hours after the list of torch lighters was announced, Casspi was cut by the Warriors.
The following day, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, canceled a trip to Israel and his participation in the torchlighting ceremony following accusations by the chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party that his country is guilty of gross violations of human rights. Hernandez had confirmed his participation in the Mount Herzl event last week.
Israelis lighting torches include singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi; stage actress Leah Koenig; Gen. (Res.) Yeshayahu “Shaike” Gavish, chairman of the Palmach Veterans Association; paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony; Racheli Ganot, CEO of Rachip, a high-tech company that employs haredi Orthodox women; Zeev Revach, a Moroccan-born comedian, movie actor and director; linguist Avshalom Kor; Margalit Zinati, the only Jewish resident of the Druze village of Pekiin; Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community; biotechnical researcher Marcelle Machluf; mathematician Aviezri Fraenkel; and May Korman, 15, who patented an idea to prevent children from being left alone in cars.