Record Numbers Expected

Not even the Coronavirus pandemic can stop this central part of Israel’s national independence celebration, though it will look very different this time. As a result of social distancing, the torches will be lit in Jerusalem in the absence of a large crowd, but it’s expected that record numbers of people will watch from home. After all, where else do they have to be these days? You can watch the livestream of the annual torchlighting ceremony on Tuesday night, April 28, marking the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Tuesday, April 28
7:50pm Israel
11:50am CDT

Each year, the Ministry of Culture and Sport selects an A-list roster of public figures and people who contribute to Israel’s welfare to be honored by lighting a Yom Ha’atzmaut torch. This year’s torchlighters include many prominent personalities, as well as lesser-known figures – among them people who are on the frontlines of Israel’s response to the global health pandemic.

As you look at the list—and as you watch the ceremony on Yom Ha’atzmaut—think about the people and what they represent:

  1. How do you think the Coronavirus pandemic influenced the choice of torchlighters?
  2. What kind of leadership do you think should be highlighted at this ceremony?
  3. Is there someone whose leadership in recent weeks has impressed you?

2020 Torch Lighters

Credits from right to left: Sheba Hospital spokeswoman, courtesy of the family, PR, Mia Tsban - spokeswoman at Poriya Medical Center, Barzilai Hospital, Tomer Feinburg, IDF Spokesman, Tomer Newberg, Hadas Perush / Flash 90)

Tzipi Shavit, whose acting career has spanned more than 50 years, is renowned for her bubbly, optimistic personality and has long been a fixture in children’s entertainment.

Idan Raichel, one of the country’s best-known and most innovative musical talents, whose work bridges east and west, often including musicians from many cultural backgrounds. When he learned he was to receive this honor, he immediately blurted out, “I have to go tell my mother!”

Yasmin Mazawi, a 20-year-old Christian Arab who is completing her Sherut Leumi (National Service) as a volunteer with Magen David Adom. She’ll light the torch together with 92-year-old Rayna Abitbul, who has been volunteering at Jerusalem’s Sha’are Tzedek hospital for nearly two decades. Together, the two are being recognized as representatives of the thousands of volunteers helping confront the Coronavirus challenge.

Ahmed Balawneh and Yael Vilozny, Arab and Jewish nurses engaged in the care of Coronavirus patients, will represent the heroic work of the entire nursing community.

Galia Rahav, a leading doctor at Sheba Medical Center, is playing a leading role in fighting the Coronavirus and searching for successful medical responses to the virus.

Yisrael Almasi, the director of Yedidim, a massive network of 20,000 volunteers who provide roadside assistance to their fellow citizens. During the Coronavirus crisis, volunteers have expanded their work to include providing varied assistance to elderly Israelis.

Adi Altschuler, the founder of two remarkably innovative social enterprises: Zikaron baSalon, which facilitates intimate opportunities for Holocaust survivors to share their stories, and Krembo Wings, a youth movement that brings special needs youth together with others to build bonds of friendship.

Eli Ben-Shem, the chairman of Yad leBanim, which memorializes fallen soldiers and provides assistance to their families.

Col. Hisham Ibrahim, one of the most high-ranking Druse officers in the IDF, was recommended for the honor of lighting a torch by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

Uri Cohen, the founder of Masa Israeli, an educational organization focused on encouraging young Israelis to consider their connection with the Jewish people, the land, and the state of Israel.

Lori Palatnik will have the honor of lighting the Diaspora Torch. As the founder of Momentum, she has sometimes been referred to as “Birthright for Mothers” and has brought thousands of Jewish women on tours of Israel.