Itzik to Israel's Enemies: Trade Your Qassams for Computers

At Independence Day ceremony, Acting President says Iran, Syria and PA 'should think about why they are so blood-thirsty.'

Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik called Tuesday on Israel's enemies to abandon the path of violence and work toward the well-being of their own societies.

"Our advice to you is replace your Katyushas and Qassams with computers and loving education, the smile of a boy that has a future, and neighborliness," Itzik said during her speech at the annual torch-lighting ceremony that kicked off Israel's 59th Independence Day celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Itzik delivered the opening speech and lit the central torch. Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, also lit one of the 12 torches.

"We hear the sharpening of swords and voices of war from near and afar. In distant Iran, in nearby Syria, in the Palestinian Authority at out doorstep, there still reside fiery zealots of hate-ridden leaders that believe in their ability to harm the state of Israel," Itzik said in her speech, adding that "the citizens of Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority should think twice about why they are so thirsty for battles and blood.

"Isn't the blood that you have already spilled enough?" she asked.

Israel marks its 59th year of Independence Day with a population of 7,150,000.

When the state was founded in 1948, there were 806,000 residents. A third of those still live in the country.

Figures published Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that 5,725,000 residents of Israel - 80 percent - are Jewish. Most of the remainder are Arab.

The population has increased 121,000 in the past year. Most of that increase - 89 percent - reflects natural growth.

Since last Independence Day, 148,000 babies were born here.

About 44 percent of the population resides in cities of 100,000 inhabitants or more.

In 1948, Tel Aviv was the only city with more than 100,000 residents; it had 248,500 inhabitants.

Today, Israel has five cities above 200,000 inhabitants: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion and Ashdod. These five cities account for 1,810,300 residents, or about a quarter of the population.

Rural localities house 8 percent of the population. The rural population includes 119,700 kibbutz members, less than 2 percent of the overall population. At the founding of the state, kibbutzim housed 6 percent of the population.