This year’s Israel Independence Day torchbearers span in age from 18 to 102

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This year’s Israel Independence Day torchbearers span in age from 18 to 102

As the Jewish state celebrates its 73rd birthday, Yaish Giat, a 102-year-old Yemenite Torah scholar is among those who are participating in ceremonies to mark the occasion

Israeli children's hold Israeli flags ahed of Israel 73rd Independence day, at a kindergarten in Moshav Yashresh, April 13, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90
Israeli children's hold Israeli flags ahed of Israel 73rd Independence day, at a kindergarten in Moshav Yashresh, April 13, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Fourteen people have been selected to light the symbolic torches at this year’s Israel Independence Day ceremony on Wednesday night, according to Israeli news site Maariv.

The ceremony, in which 12 torches are lit to symbolise the 12 tribes of Israel, traditionally marks the transition between Israel’s day of remembrance for fallen soldiers and Independence Day marking the country’s founding in 1948.

Among those who are being honoured as torchbearers are Ofri Butbul, an 18-year-old Israeli who saved the life of an elderly man she had gotten to know as a volunteer with a nonprofit organisation, as well as Yaish Giat, a 102-year-old Yemenite Torah scholar who owns a spice shop and sells natural medicines.

A committee chooses the torchbearers, who are approved by Israel’s sports and culture ministers.

Giat was surprised to hear he had been chosen for the honour.

“People say it is a great honour. I do not know,” he told Ynet, according to The Times of Israel. “When I raise the torch I will wish that our nation love one another, that people will respect one another for the benefit of the Land of Israel.”

This year’s Diaspora representative, a recognition introduced in 2017, will go to Gabriela Sztrigler Lew, a volunteer from Mexico who turns 20 this week. Lew has participated in more than 10 humanitarian missions with the Shalom Corps, an organisation run by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Jewish Agency, and assisting Holocaust survivors during the pandemic.

Also included in the group are three Israeli health care workers who have worked throughout the COVID pandemic, as well as a police officer who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as a child and organised food distribution for Ethiopian Israelis struggling during the pandemic.

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