Israel celebrates 76th independence anniversary amid months-long war in Gaza

A man places an Israeli flag on the beach during Israel’s Independence Day celebrations in Tel Aviv, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. Israelis are marking 76 years since Israel’s creati
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Israel

Israelis celebrated Independence Day in Tel Aviv on Tuesday amid its months-long war in Gaza and concern over the fate of remaining hostages.

As with previous years, Israelis celebrated the day – this year marked from Monday evening through Tuesday – with barbecues filling up entire parks across the country.

But in the shadow of the conflict in Gaza and immediately after the country marked an emotional Memorial Day, the normally raucous parties were subdued, as families grappled with their desire to mark the event as the country faces one of its most difficult tests in decades.

We don’t want to show Hamas that they can win. We want to show them that we are strong and we want to show them that our country is important for us and to show them that we still go out, we still live our lives.” saysShiri Simon, a Tel Aviv resident.

With the trauma of Oct. 7 looming large, each day is expected to feel dramatically different from previous years.

Roughly 1,200 people were killed that day, about a quarter of them soldiers, and another 250 were taken captive in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities. The attack sparked the war, now in its eighth month, which has killed more than 34,700 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

The militants stormed past Israel’s vaunted defenses, bursting through a border fence, blinding surveillance cameras and battling the country’s first line of defense soldiers, many of whom were outnumbered. Itay Chen, an Israeli-American, was one of them.

Militants reached roughly 20 different locations in southern Israel, stretching into cities beyond the belt of farming communities that straddles Gaza. It took hours for the region’s most powerful military to send reinforcements to the area and days for it to clear all the militants.

The attack shook Israel to its core. It shattered the broad trust the country’s Jewish population has long placed in the military, which has compulsory enlistment for most Jewish 18-year-olds.

Israelis are wondering what the right way to celebrate is — and whether there is much to celebrate at all.

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