update deskIsrael at War

Israel scraps national Independence Day fireworks shows amid war

Family members of hostages held in Gaza had called on the government to tone down the celebratory nature of the ceremonies.

Israelis watch fireworks marking Israel's 70th Independence Day, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, April 18, 2018. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Israelis watch fireworks marking Israel's 70th Independence Day, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, April 18, 2018. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

There will be no fireworks at national celebrations of Israel’s 76th Independence Day, Transport Minister Miri Regev announced on Wednesday, calling on local and regional authorities to follow suit.

“In light of the events of Oct. 7 and the war, we are adjusting the format of the ceremony,” said Regev, who is responsible for the official celebrations of Independence Day, which this year start at sundown on May 13 and run through the evening of May 14.

Earlier on Wednesday, family members of some of the hostages still held captive by Hamas in Gaza had called on the government to tone down the usual celebratory nature of the main Independence Day event.

“There will be no torch-lighting ceremony without the hostages. I will do everything in my power to prevent it from taking place,” Einav Tsengauker, whose son Matan, 24, remains in Hamas captivity, told Ynet. “Let them deal with returning the hostages and not with torches.”

The annual torch-lighting ceremony ushers in Independence Day and signifies the end of Yom Hazikaron, Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism. The ceremony is held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem and is led by the Knesset speaker.

“I can’t even think of the Purim celebrations soon. We understand that people want to hold a ceremony to maintain resilience, but they should be reminded [of the hostages] at all times,” added Makabit Mayer, the aunt of twins Gali and Ziv Berman, 26, taken by terrorists from Kibbutz Kfar Aza on Oct. 7.

The committee responsible for the national ceremony intends to reach out to former captives who were freed in last year’s hostages-for-ceasefire deal and invite them to light a torch.

The families of the remaining hostages are hopeful that their loved ones will be released in a renewed agreement with Hamas and will be able to celebrate Independence Day as free people, Ynet noted.

The families also requested that some of the 12 torches that will be lit at the ceremony be placed in the areas hit the hardest by Hamas on Oct. 7, including at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre and in Kfar Aza.

There are believed to be 134 hostages remaining in Gaza, out of 253 kidnapped during the Hamas-led assault on the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7 that killed some 1,200 people and wounded thousands more. Israel has confirmed that 32 of those 134 abductees are dead.

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