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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 30, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 81

Israel's 'Forgotten Army' Ready for Roll Call

Israel Faxx News Service

The "Mahal," the forgotten fighters from Israel's 1948 War of Independence, are back in the Jewish state for what could be their final roll call. Now in their late 60s and 70s, most of the surviving foreign veterans who fought for Israel at its birth are scattered as far away as India, France, Britain, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. Only about 10% of the 4,000 "volunteers from abroad," as the Hebrew acronym Mahal dubbed them, settled down in Israel. The Jewish state invited the surviving volunteers back for a reunion as part of its celebrations for the 50th anniversary of its independence.

Independence Day Follows Memorial Day

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem) & Arutz 7 News Service

Israel marks its 50th independence day with a series of public and private celebrations. The chief cantor of the israeli army issued a solemn chant at the military cemetery in jerusalem.

A lone trumpeter blew a mournful tribute at israel's main military cemetery wednesday morning. Rabbis prayed and political leaders made speeches, pledging the dead will not have died in vain.

Israel's annual day of ceremonies to honor its fallen soldiers and the victims of terrorist attacks also included a 24-hour television broadcast of patriotic music, as the names and ages of the dead were flashed on the screen, one by one.

It is a tradition in israel that the memorial day ends at sundown, just as celebrations of independence day begin. The moment will have added poignancy this year, as israel launches a two-day national festival to mark its 50th year (of existence). Israelis say it is emblematic of the country -- to put personal and collective pain in the context of national pride and joy.

A two-minute siren - broadcast in its entirety throughout the world over CNN - was sounded Wednesday morning, and the country came to a standstill to remember those who gave their lives for the Jewish homeland.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl, said, "On Memorial Day, more than any other day, the private and the public clash within me. At this time, I must represent the entire nation, bowing my head in front of the bereaved families.

"At the same time, the private pain of my family and I [at the death of his brother Col. Yoni Netanyahu while commanding the heroic rescue of the Entebbe hostages in 1976 - ed.] cries out. I see before me lines and lines of sons, and brothers, and bereaved parents. I see you, and I know your pain. I see rows and rows of gravestones, from which [so many] memories arise... rows and rows of boys and girls, dreams that were suddenly cut off, each of them an entire world, accompanied by unbearable longing...

"No nation can win the struggle for its existence without the willingness of individuals to sacrifice themselves for its sake. But in our case, the fallen whose memory we honor today brought about a revolution unheard of in the history of nations. They gave their lives to turn a downtrodden and divided nation into one that is sure of itself. Fifty years ago, it was not even clear that the broken-down tree of the Jewish nation could grow new branches and new life..."

This year's Independence Day celebrations will stretch over two days with Vice President Al Gore as the guest of honor.

After the lighting of 15 memorial torches, Wednesday evening, Netanyahu read aloud selections from the Declaration of Independence at the opening ceremony at Mt. Herzl, and 50 shofars were sounded. Public entertainment was held in most localities, and many people celebrated with special thanksgiving prayer services in synagogues throughout the country.

Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces holds a air show of 50 planes that will fly across the country. It is estimated that 1 million people will visit the 50 national parks in Israel. For the first time, celebrations will be held this year for two days, Thursday and Friday.

Israelis say they have much to celebrate -- having built a strong, prosperous Jewish State in the Holy Land after 2,000 years of exile and the horrors of World War 2. But many are also worried about divisions emerging in Israeli society, and the ongoing delays in the peace process.

Controversial Dance Segment

By Arutz-7 News Service

Doron Shmueli, Chairman of the Israel Jubilee Committee, has reneged on the promise he made to the National Religious Party. Shmueli had promised to cancel a particular segment of the Jubilee Bells event -- in which a large group of dancers dressed as Hasidim gradually disrobe of their garb, to the tune of the traditional Passover song "Who Knows One" -- which the NRP claimed was insulting to religious-community sensibilities. Shmueli viewed the segment and announced that he had decided to back the dance group and its choreographer, Ohad Naharin.

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