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>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
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
"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
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
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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