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A palpable excitement is in the air all across the State of Israel as preparations are underway to usher in the Jewish state’s 67th birthday. Coming in the immediate aftermath of Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is a 24-hour period of ecstatic celebration. It is held every year in either late April or early May – on the day (in the Hebrew calendar) which corresponds to May 14, 1948. At that time Israel declared its independence (as a sovereign and autonomous Jewish State) from the tyrannical British mandatory regime.
Across Israel, events and celebrations take place to mark Independence – both on a national scale and on a more local scale, with almost every city, town, and village, having some sort of celebration. Yom Haatzmaut is a real family day, and Israelis flock to Israel’s National Parks, hiking trails, and beauty spots, for barbecues and picnics.
In an article entitled, “The Juxtaposition of Memorial and Independence Day in Israel” written by Ron Jager that appeared on the Israel National News web site, he writes:
“Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut are purposely back-to-back for a purpose. The celebrations of Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut) are incomplete by themselves. We celebrate these two events with the acute awareness that without the incredible sacrifice of those we have lost, there would be no State of Israel. Yom Hazikaron gives our Yom Haatzmaut meaning and perspective. We are forced to confront and remember the terrible price we have had to pay for our existence as a Jewish state, and because of this price, we value that freedom all the more intensely.
Yom Haatzmaut gives Yom Hashoah a greater meaning than ever before. We in Israel are defending and dying on the front lines on behalf of every Jew in the world. For the Jews of the diaspora, Israel has become a very real safe haven for every Jew to escape to and call home, only because he is a Jew. This is the very opposite of the not-so-distant past when entrance to a safe haven was denied only because one was a Jew.”
To mark the 67 years of the renascent modern Jewish state, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has released statistics revealing that 27,933 new olim (immigrants) will be joining in the ebullient festivities for the very first time.
INN has reported that the country from which the largest number of Jews returned to their historical homeland last year was Ukraine, which produced 6,996 new olim. France was right behind at 6,377, followed by Russia at 5,040, and America with 3,208.
A youthful trend characterizes the newest Israelis, with a large portion of them being teenagers.
Israel's new olim will join their more veteran compatriots in celebrating Independence Day in the state's parks, where barbecue has become something of a tradition, and will likewise take in the concerts that will be held at cities nationwide, according to the INN report.
The cities that took in the most new immigrants were Tel Aviv-Yafo at 3,275, Netanya with 3,012, and Jerusalem at 2,828.
"To the olim who are arriving from around the world their first Independence Day in Israel signifies a milestone in their acclimatization in Israel," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu).
"This is a day in which all the citizens of Israel join together around their shared identity that defines the Jewish state, and feel the strength of the people that brought about the implementation of our independence," added Landver. "I am happy and proud that the new olim are experiencing this day as full-fledged citizens.”
Key census statistics focusing on Israel’s remarkable demographic escalation since its inception was released on Tuesday, April 21 by the Central Bureau of Statistics in anticipation of Israel Independence Day
At the time of its establishment in May of 1948, Israel’s populace stood at 806,000 residents. Currently, the population rate is approximately 8,345,000 residents. Representing 74.9% of the total population, the number of people identifying themselves as Jewish stands at approximately 6,251,000 residents.
Comprising 20.7% of the population, the number of Arabs residing in Israel is at approximately 1,730,000 residents and growing. The remaining approximately 364,000 residents (4.4% of the total population) are made up of non-Arab Christians, members of other religions, and those with no religion listed in the population registry, according to a JPost report.
Over the past year, the rate of the population has grown by 2.0% which is equivalent to 364,000 residents. !76,000 babies were born in Israel over the last 12 months and approximately 44,000 people died . An estimated 32,000 people moved to Israel over the course of the past year.
To date, 23,169 soldiers have died since the establishment of the State of Israel
The JPost report said that “in 2014, nearly 75% of the Jewish population in Israel were born in Israel. In 1948, only 35% of the Jewish population in Israel were Sabras.”
In 1948, only the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo had over 100,000 residents. Today, 14 cities across Israel have over 100,000 residents. Of those, six cities have over 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod, and Petah Tikva.
As they do every year, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has arranged a special air show and fly-over which passes over much of the country. The show features a range of aircraft from the IAF fleet including acrobatic planes, and lasts around 45 minutes. The aircraft pass over most major towns and cities in the country. A series of flyovers head from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem, through the Jordan Valley, over the major towns and cities of the Galilee, and then back down the Mediterranean Coast, passing Tel Aviv and passing over the cities of the Negev. Other fly-overs cover the southern Negev, and center of the country.
The major State Ceremony for Yom Haatzmaut takes place on the eve of Yom Haatzmaut at Mount Herzl, Israel’s National Ceremony in Jerusalem. This event marks the end of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s memorial day, which falls immediately before), and the beginning of the celebration for Yom Haatzmaut. The ceremony involves performances, speeches, and a ceremonial lighting of twelve torches which symbolizes the Twelve tribes of Israel by twelve citizens who have made a great impact upon the country.
Moreover, each year a now famous International Bible Competition is held on Yom Haatzmaut as well as the ceremony for the Israel Prize which is Israel’s highest award and honor. The Israel Prize is given each year to about 10-15 people in the presence of the presence of the President, Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the Supreme Court president.
Yom Haatzmaut events in Jerusalem will begin across the city-center from 21:00 on the eve of Independence Day,
The F-35 Lightning II Jet
On the military front, Israel is celebrating her 67th birthday with an announcement that two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) will arrive in December 2016, making the Israeli Air Force (IAF) the first outside of the United States to receive the combat jet, according to a Lockheed Martin official.
INN has reported that Israel has ordered 33 additional F-35s and intends to acquire another 17 in the coming years, to form two full squadrons.
According to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, IAF sources said that a squadron commander and five pilots from Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel have been selected to become the country's first F-35 pilots and instructors.
In an event for reporters at Nevatim, the IAF unveiled a new F-35 demonstrator provided by Lockheed, which IAF officials said will shorten the process of absorbing the new platform.
Although not a full flight simulator, the demonstrator allows pilots to become better acquainted with the plane, its software, targeting and avionics, said Brig.-Gen. Leehu Hacohen, commander of Nevatim.
More than 200 F-35s are expected to have been produced by 2016 and 350 aircraft will be made by the end of 2018, said Steve Over, director of F-35 International Business Development, who is visiting Israel along with other senior Lockheed representatives.
Alan Norman, Lockheed Martin's chief F-35 test pilot, said the F-35 will enable Israeli pilots to approach targets without being seen, gather intelligence, and attack air and ground threats simultaneously.
"It's easy to fly," he said, according to Jane's. "The pilot is no longer a technician. He can truly be a tactician by focusing on bringing weapons systems into a battle arena."
"It's not invisible, but it can operate in a battle space with impunity," Norman said. "It will know where threat radars are, hundreds of miles away, and decide to either avoid or kill the threats. The sensors actively look for surface and airborne radars. It will locate threats without transmitting electrons off the plane."
The F-35 has been facing a barrage of criticism for years, with some experts calling it “a lemon” and claiming it “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.” In addition, it was recently reported that it won’t be able to fire its gun until 2019 either.