Sixty-six years old, and partying hard

Independence Day firework display in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (Photo: Ilana Shkolni)

Independence Day firework display in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (Photo: Ilana Shkolni)

Israel is celebrating 66 years since gaining independence with street parties and fireworks displays taking place throughout the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres both sent video messages to diaspora communities around the world to mark the day.

“The year ahead will present us with many challenges,” said Mr Peres. “The shifting sands of the Middle East generate a sense of insecurity in what tomorrow holds.

“Change, however, can also present opportunities for new and better prospects that should be seized. With this in mind, Israel strives to become a significant contributor to the development of our region and to the world at large.”

Mr Netanyahu said: “We have defended ourselves against the attacks of hostile neighbours, overcoming threats faced by no other country.

“We have built a vibrant democracy in which freedom is sacrosanct, guaranteeing equality under the law and the rights of every citizen.”

At the official state ceremony held in Jerusalem on Mount Herzl last night, 12 beacons were lit symbolising the 12 tribes of Israel - marking the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day.

For the first time this year, all the torch-bearers were women. These included such notable figures as Adina Bar Shalom, the daughter of the late Shas spiritual leader Ovadai Yosef, and Orna Barbivai, the first woman to gain the rank of Major General in the IDF.

Last updated: 10:29am, May 6 2014