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April 28, 2020 4:38 pm

Israeli Leaders Ring in Subdued Independence Day Celebrations With Messages of Unity

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Israelis celebrate on their balconies during the opening night of Israel’s 72th Independence Day, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in the southern city of Ashkelon, April 28, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Israel kicked off festivities marking its 72nd Independence Day on Tuesday night with the traditional torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, the event was pre-recorded with no audience.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message, “We’ve never had an Independence Day like this. We’re far apart physically, but we’ve never been closer.”

“It is time for unity,” he declared. “If we join forces, we can overcome the coronavirus.”

Speaking at the event, Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz — the head of the centrist Blue and White party who recently forged a coalition agreement with Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party after three inconclusive Knesset elections in one year — said, “We are going through difficult times, and we must prepare for even harder times. We will win this war, and form a new ethos, a story of solidarity — a story that will not be defined by strangers or enemies, but by ourselves.”

“We will continue to build a nation that is greater than the sum of its parts,” Gantz pledged. “A model society that is not afraid of challenges, and looks ahead with hope. A society in which we, the leaders, take responsibility, work for you, the citizens of Israel, care for the unity of the nation and uphold democracy and human rights for all. A society that has some chutzpah and is out of the box, but is also stable and strong.”

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