Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted on Thursday “All Israel From Jerusalem” and the traditional ceremony honoring 120 outstanding Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers for the fifth time from the gardens of his residence in Jerusalem.

The event on Israel Independence Day was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi, and current and former members of the IDF General Staff.

The morning began with a fly-past in honor of the outstanding soldiers, who represent all branches of the IDF. The lead pilot greeted the president and the soldiers as he flew over Beit HaNasi, saying, “Mr. President, Chief of Staff, we the pilots of the Israel Air Force greet you on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces with our best wishes for a Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach, a Happy Independence Day!”

The president replied, “On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish you Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach—to you, the pilots of the IAF, soldiers of the IDF and their commanders in the air, on land and on the sea. Happy Independence Day, Israel!”

Immediately after the fly-past, the president and chief of staff honored the 120 outstanding soldiers, who were chosen on the recommendation of their commanders to receive the President’s Award for Excellence for their service and outstanding contribution to the IDF and the State of Israel.

“Dear citizens of Israel, I am proud to celebrate the State of Israel’s 71st birthday with you today! We have been here for 71 years, doing the unbelievable and overcoming together all the obstacles and building a home, Jewish and democratic, in the land of our ancestors,” said Rivlin.

He mentioned that the descendants of survivors of the Holocaust, which ended three years before Israel’s independence, “serve in the IDF, the strongest and most professional army in the region (and some might say in the world).”

“Thanks to you, dear veterans, the soldiers who fought then, and thanks to the outstanding soldiers who defend us today. We are here celebrating 71 years of success and growth. We are gathered here today to thank you.”

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