Israel Celebrates 66 Years of Independence

Israelis flock to public parks for barbecues; Israel Air Force holds annual flyover.

Moti Milrod

Israelis across the country flocked to public parks and hiking trails on Tuesday to celebrate Independence Day with barbecues and other leisure activities. 

Earlier Tuesday, President Shimon Peres kicked off the day with the annual sing-along at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. As part of the event, the president gave awards to distinguished Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

On Monday night, the festivities officially began with the official Independence Day ceremony and torch-lighting ceremony, in which, for the first time, all the torch-lighters were women.

In his last public greeting as president on Monday, Peres called on Israelis to "be proud, but never satisfied" and to make peace with their neighbors.

"I remember the first days [of Israel] and the dream we had," Peres said in his YouTube address on the eve of Independence Day, "and I have to admit that the dream was too small when I see the reality that was born out of it."

In addition to the sing-along, the Israel Air Force held its annual flyover on Tuesday morning. Israelis looking up were able to see the IAF's F-15s, F-16s, C-130s, Gulfstream-5s, Beechcraft King Airs, Boeing 707s, and Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters. The IDF also opened a number of its bases to visitors.

Also, the international teen Bible quiz  took place in the Jerusalem Theater on Tuesday morning. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Shay Piron attended the event in which 16 teenagers from around the world competed to determine which of them is the most knowledgeable.