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Rivlin’s Independence Day Swan Songs

CM 15/04/2021

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Israel’s Independence Day is always an emotional time for President Reuven Rivlin, but rarely more so than this year, when it was his swan song for hosting two receptions which are traditionally within the president’s purview: the public recognition of 120 outstanding soldiers from all branches of the Israel Defense Forces, and a reception for the heads and military attaches of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel.

Last year, due to the severe restrictions imposed on social gatherings, neither event could be held. The 120 soldiers received their medals and scholarships, but not their public accolades.
This year, there was the traditional fly-over, and the 120 soldiers were present along with the IDF top brass and various medical personnel, but parents and other relatives were not present and watched the event on television – which actually gave them a much better view of their outstanding soldier than if they were sitting in the garden at the back of the presidential compound.
For reasons determined by the Health Ministry, there was no-parade onto the stage, nor did the 120 soldiers sit on stage as in past years, but they sat alongside each other in the audience instead.
What difference this made in terms of health is negligible.
As always, the outstanding soldiers included immigrants and volunteers. The latter, due to various disabilities, would have ordinarily been exempted, but fought to be accepted into the army, and proved their mettle in areas in which their disabilities were not impediments.
The immigrant soldiers came from France, Canada, Ukraine, Ethiopia, the US, Colombia and Russia. Among the outstanding female soldiers, there were several from combat units.

All the soldiers were masked, individually mounted the stage and saluted. Instead of shaking hands with them and presenting them with medals and scholarships, Rivlin bowed to each one and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi saluted them.
They came in two separate groups of 60 each, and then returned to their seats. At the conclusion, when Rivlin and Kohavi descended from the stage, they stood for a moment, facing the soldiers and applauding them.
IN HIS ADDRESS, Rivlin allowed himself only the tiniest hint of politics.  Looking out at the outstanding soldiers, he said: “You give me 120 reasons to be proud. You are the top of the top. Although it may occasionally seem that we have gone astray, we have not lost our direction; we have not lost our compass.”
Implying that the State of Israel is something that should not be taken for granted, Rivlin said that when he was born, a Jewish and democratic state was still a dream. 
It was not until he was nine years old that the British flag was lowered and the Israeli flag hoisted in its stead.
Despite the siege of Jerusalem at the time, he recalled, everyone was happy and proud, because the spirit of “defending our land was so strong.”  He regarded the 120 outstanding soldiers as the carriers of that same spirit, thanking them for their dedication, the example they set and the pride they bring to the nation in the knowledge that we can meet all challenges. “You have no idea how much people and I personally need this,” he said.
Emphasizing the mantle of unity that cloaks all soldiers in the IDF regardless of where they come from, or their socio-economic or religious backgrounds, Rivlin noted the opportunities available to every soldier, saying: “The IDF is the gateway to Israeli society and is open to all.”
Kohavi also touched on this theme, declaring that army service enables people who might otherwise not have any other opportunity to do so, to realize their potential – the leadership and initiative which contributes to Israel being the Start-Up Nation.  “This is a strategic asset to the state,” he said.
He also referred to the positives and negatives in the digital revolution, relating to its platforms being used for hatred and incitement. While aiming for greater technological developments, “we must not allow technology to harm humanity,” the chief of staff said.
Speaking directly to Rivlin, Kohavi thanked him for making the IDF a central issue of his presidency, giving encouragement and boosting morale in difficult times.  “The IDF is an asset for which there is no alternative,” he said.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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