On the eve of Yom Ha’atmaut, as the country raises its flags to full mast, a group of 14 individuals will take center stage at Mt. Herzl, and will be honored with the lighting of 12 torches, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Very few of those chosen are famous. Most, in fact, are anonymous and this will be the first that the general population will get to know them by name. Many in Israel do know them through other means- by their talents, their initiatives, or their achievements. Israelis, and many people around the world, even owe their lives to them. This year they are:
- Dani Gold- Inventor and developer of the Iron Dome system.
- Rami Levi- Businessmen and leading retail market developer. Levi has revolutionized areas of Israel’s supermarket industry.
- Alice Miller– the first female to apply for the Israel Air force’s (IAF) pilots’ course. Miller’s application to join the course was initially turned down due to her gender. Following her petition to the high court, the IAF enlisted Miller. While she did not complete the course, Miller paved the way for female pilots and navigators in the IAF.
- Ehud Shavtai and Or Asulin– Shavtai is the founder and one of the developers of the world famous GPS application WAZE. Asulin is a high school student and CEO of a local youth organization focusing on entrepreneurship in Acco.
- Lucy Aharish– Arab Israeli news presenter and reporter. Aharish has long been an activist from the Arab sector, fighting for equal opportunity and more recently becoming a household name through her television work.
- Professor Martha Weinstock- Rosen and Dr. Gavriel Idan- Professor Weinstock- Rosen is a leading scientist and researcher, focusing most of her work on developing drugs for the cure of Alzheimer’s. Dr. Idan is the inventor and developer of Pill-Cam- the miniscule camera that can be swallowed, allowing a minimal invasive procedure that allows doctors a direct view of the colon.
- Rafi Mehudar- Engineer and developer of drip irrigation technology for the company Netafim. Nefatim provides drip irrigation solutions both in Israel and around the world, including many third world countries.
- Avihu Medina– composer, arranger, songwriter and singer of Mediterranean Israeli music.
- Sima Shein- Israel’s highest ranking female in the history of the country’s intelligence services.
- Gal Lusky– founder of IFA (Israeli Flying Aid) – a nonprofit organization that provides worldwide first response, relief and humanitarian aid.
- Malka Piotrkowsky– educator and women’s rights activist. Piotrkowsky has been active in several religious circles, fighting for women’s place in Jewish and Israeli culture.
- Corporal Dan Korkovski- diagnosed with autism, Cp. Kokovski was among the first to graduate from the “Ro’im Rahok” (See far) program and is today an integral part of the IDF’s intelligence branch. Escorting him will be Lt. Fomortzok, chief officer of the program.
Israel is a celebration of many things- the creation of a secure, modern day Jewish homeland; a blooming desert and a hub that produces high tech miracles across the globe. Most importantly though, Yom Haatzmaut is the celebration of the most crucial of Israel’s resources- its human capacity. Every high tech patent, every victory over discrimination, every global humanitarian solution is done by people, and some of the most incredible people in the world.
Have a quick look once again at the list above, and note the diversity. Medical researchers alongside businessmen and social justice activists. High tech developers and aid volunteers. Jews and Arabs. High school entrepreneurs alongside soldiers and life achievers. All of them proudly Israeli.
It is no secret that we still have a long way to go both internally as a society and internationally as a nation. But on Yom Haatzmaut we stop, watch as the IAF flies across Israel’s coast, break out the mangal (BBQ), make a l’chayim and kvell… and we have good reason to.
Wishing us all a Chag Atzmaut sameach!