President of Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado of Honduras will attend the ceremony marking Israel's 70th Independence Day, Culture and Sportrs Minister Miri Regev said on Wednesday.
Singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi was chosen to light a torch at the event, which will take place on April 18 at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The other 11 torchlighters will be announced soon.
This year will be the first time a foreign head of state participates in the torch-lighting ceremony for Israel’s annual Independence Day celebration. Hernández will partake in the event alongside representatives of Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (known in Hebrew by its acronym, MASHAV), where he attended a course in 1992. He is the program's first graduate to go on to become a president.
MASHAV, which is part of the Foreign Ministry, is responsible for Israel’s foreign aid, cooperation and development and trains people in agriculture, education, medicine, women empowerment and other fields.
Regev announced the participation of the Honduran president using the Spanish greeting "Bienvenido" ("welcome") and added she is "happy and proud to host the president of Honduras and a MASHAV graduate."
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Honduras has been mulling moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the city as the capital of Israel last December. Honduras was one of the few countries that supported the United States' decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem at the United Nations, where both the General Assembly and the Security Council overwhelming voted against it (though the resolution rejecting the move was vetoed by the Americans).
Artzi was born in 1949 on Moshav Alonei Abba and was raised in Tel Aviv. He spent his military service as a performer in the Israel Navy’s entertainment troupe and became one of the military troupes’ leading icons. The panel that selected him to light a torch wrote that Artzi “created a large part of Israel’s cultural and musical legacy. ... Artzi’s singular style in singing, journalistic writing and radio broadcasts reflects the experience of life in Israel.”
“I’m very excited,” Artzi said in response. “I wish my parents and sister could see and be with me at this moment.”