Peres Extends Holiday Wishes to Nation as Israel Turns 65

On the occasion of Israel's Independence Day, President Shimon Peres recounts Israel's founding and warns of the dangers ahead; vacationing Israelis head en masse to national parks, despite cool weather.

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President Shimon Peres delivered his Independence Day address Tuesday morning, wishing the nation a happy holiday from the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

"I belong to a generation that crossed the threshold between the abyss of the Holocaust and the pinnacle of resurrection," Peres said. "I was there the evening the state was recognized, and was there when we were attacked upon daybreak."

Peres went on to briefly recount the struggle to defend the fledgling state.

''We had only one chance,'' he said; "To overcome or to fall, to excel or to falter. We prevailed due to the heroism of our fighters. Theirs was a just war, and they upheld the purity of arms. Over the course of fewer than seven decades, attempts were made to annihilate us, and seven times, we prevailed and won."

"Israel's victory is one of humanity, not of land. But the dangers have yet to recede," he said, and described the external dangers Israel faced as "an Iranian leadership... gripped by frenzy; Hezbollah, which has turned religious spirit into an arsenal of missiles; and Hamas, which has transformed a strip of land, teeming with civilians, into a powder keg." Yet, Peres continued, "Israel has never ceased advocating peace."

Despite the cool weather, which is expected to stay colder-than-average throughout the day, Israelis thronged to the country's national parks, many of them toting a traditional mangal, to celebrate the holiday.

Defense Ministry museums and military bases are open to the public throughout Tuesday, and the Israeli air force will conduct celebratory flyovers over cities and other sites across the country.

Earlier on Tuesday, the annual Bible quiz took place, which culminated in a surprise joint-award. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the prize to the two winners, American Yishai Eisenberg, of New Jersey, and Israeli Elior Babian of Beit Shemesh.

The Israel Prize, annually awarded to outstanding individuals for contributions to the humanities, sciences, culture and society, will also be awarded, later in the evening.

Israel's 65th Independence Day celebrations were kicked off Monday night with the lighting of beacons at the official ceremony at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, an event which also marked the conclusion of Memorial Day.

President Shimon Peres singing at the Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem. Tuesday, April 16, 2013.Credit: AP

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