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Celebrations in Israel as Jewish state turns 64

    Celebrations have begun to honour 64 years since Israel's declaration of independence.

    Israelis across the country will be visiting national parks, holding barbecues, parties and other events to mark Yom Ha'atzmaut, which started on Wednesday night as the annual day of mourning for the country's fallen came to a close.

    Politicians and public figures were at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem last night for the official Yom Haatzmaut ceremony. Preparations for the event took a tragic twist last week when a lighting rig collapsed, killing a young female soldier and injuring several others. The woman who died, Hila Bezaleli, was paid tribute to in Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin's address, while her family attended the event in her memory.

    The winner of the Israel Prize, a prestigious award first given out in 1953, will be revealed later today. Finalists will also compete in the annual Bible competition in Jerusalem on Thursday evening.

    As Israel celebrates 64 years since it was established, official statistics reveal that the population grew by 137,500 last year.

    According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the population now stands at 7,881,000, with three quarters Jewish, and 21 per cent Arab.

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