The skies over Israel were clear on Monday night, clear enough for the annual fireworks on the eve of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Independence Day.
But for some Israelis, the celebration of the country’s 62nd birthday was overcast.
“62, Under a U.S. Cloud,” a headline over an editorial in the Jerusalem Post declared.
The newspaper said the current chilled relations between Israel and the Obama administration because of the pace of Middle East peace negotiations, added to the threat of a nuclear Iran, cast a pall over Independence Day.
“The growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio.
Writer Yigal Sarna said this year’s celebrations seemed subdued. “Israelis are exhausted after 62 years,” he said. “People are fed up with the news.”
Then, a physical cloud also put a damper on the festivities. An estimated 20,000 Israelis who had planned to return home for Yom Ha’Atzmaut were stuck in Europe, their travel plans cancelled by the volcano ash cloud, drifting from Iceland, which curtailed air travel across the continent.
But throughout Israel, many natives and visitors marked the day — on the heels of Yom HaZikaron, in honor of fallen soldiers — as usual, with picnics and hikes, parades and visits to military bases, the international Bible competition and the Israel Prize ceremony.
Israeli flags were everywhere, hanging from cars and apartment balconies.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was Theodor Herzl’s adage, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
The day started, as usual, with a torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl and at other locations — a member of the Masada scout movement, above, lights a commemoration flame.
Rabbi Richard Hirsch, longtime head of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, lit one of the torches at the Western Wall ceremony, becoming the first Reform rabbi to receive that honor.
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