Israelis Throng to National Parks to Celebrate Independence Day

Israel marks 62nd Independence Day with ceremonies and air shows after state ceremony on Monday night.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis thronged to the country's national parks on Tuesday as they celebrated the country's 62nd Independence Day.

The overwhelming number of visitors caused traffic jams on various roads and highways across the country, as visitors flocked to sites including Jordan Park near Lake Kinneret, Ben Shemen Forest and Gold Park in the Negev.

The Jewish National Fund said special preparations were made in anticipation of the crowds, including setting up campgrounds for visitors throughout the country, distributing garbage bags for collecting the litter and placing crews on high alert for dealing with forest fires and other emergencies.

Authorities also warned Israelis to exert caution when having outdoor barbeques due to the unseasonably warm temperatures.

Meanwhile, revelers in Tel Aviv were treated to an Israel Air Force air show, which got underway around 12 P.M. over the city's coast line.

A number of Israel's leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, on Tuesday attended a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem honoring 120 outstanding soldiers.

"The outstanding soldiers standing here represent, I am sure, the promise of a future history that will make their people proud," Peres told the soldiers.

Independence Day celebrations kicked off Monday night in Israel with the lighting of beacons at the official ceremony at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, which also marks the conclusion of Memorial Day.

The theme of this year's ceremony, for Israel's 62nd Independence Day, is Herzl's adage "If you will it, it is not a dream."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin lit the first beacon at the ceremony, and emphasized Israel's commitment to the unity of Jerusalem in his address.

"We will not apologize for building up Jerusalem our capital," Rivlin said during his Independence Day speech, which focused heavily on Jerusalem and on the divisions within the city and its population.