The state torch-lighting ceremony is the official closing of Israel’s Memorial Day, and the start of the Independence Day celebrations, one of the modern State of Israel’s most important events.
The ceremony is held in the plaza before the grave of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, who is buried at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery. The ceremony is conducted by the current speaker of the Knesset, and is attended by the prime minister, numerous other members of Knesset, the chiefs of the army and police, other high-ranking officials, and, most honored among them, bereaved families who have lost loved ones in defense of the Jewish state.
The central component of the ceremony is the lighting of 12 beacons, symbolizing the 12 Tribes of Israel.
The ceremony is broadcast live on Israeli television and major radio stations, and is a very solemn affair. In preparation, the graves around the plaza are decorated with symbols of the 12 Tribes, and special lighting, audio, visual and pyrotechnic systems are installed to create a special atmosphere.
The ceremony ends with a spectacular fireworks display and performances by folk music bands as Israel moves into its Independence Day.
This year, the ceremony will honor the “Era of Women,” and 14 very special women, each of whom has contributed in her own way to society and the state, will light the 12 beacons.
The women who will take part in the ceremony are:
Dr. Kira Radinsky: a scientist in the field of computer science and a high-tech entrepreneur.
Geula Cohen: a former Member of Knesset (Likud), deputy government minister and Israel Prize laureate. She is also the mother of current Member of Knesset Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud). Geula Cohen is a unique figure in the history of Israel’s struggle for independence and the existence of the Jewish state.
Gal Yosef: an 11th grade high school student who is current chairperson of the national student council. From a young age, Gal has been actively involved in social projects and has done much to encourage other young girls to volunteer in their communities.
Carmela Menashe: military correspondent for Voice of Israel radio for many years, currently works to provide assistance to any soldiers who need it.
Pascal Berkowitz: a Paralympian representing Israel at Beijing and London in the sports of rowing and hand-biking, she bravely determined to rebuild her life after losing both legs.
Maxine Fassberg: Intel Israel CEO and Vice President of Intel Corporation. Made an important contribution to the Israeli economy and serves as an example for women who aspire to reach senior positions in the high tech world.
Belaynesh Zevadia: Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, serves as a model for Ethiopian women aspiring to reach meaningful jobs that contribute to the strength of Israeli society.
Tali Peretz-Cohen: director of the Golan and Galilee rape crisis center. Tali handles the difficult and painful phenomenon of violence and sexual assault, particularly against women, which is widely considered as holy work.
Hindia Suleiman: founder of a unique women’s tourism-artistic venture in the Israeli Arab village of Bu’eina-Nujeidat. The venture brings together Arab women in an artistic effort that preserves their community’s traditions while bringing in tourism. It has greatly contributed to the status of women in the village.
Shahar Pe’er: Israel’s most successful tennis player of all time.
Miriam Peretz: women across the country wept with Miriam after she lost both of her sons in military operations. Despite the double tragedy, she has become a leading figure in helping bereaved families and wounded soldiers.
Orna Barbivai: head of military personnel. She is the first woman to achieve the rank of major-general in Israel.
Miriam Zohar: one of Israel’s most celebrated stage actresses, and an Israel Prize laureate. Miriam has acted for 65 years, played dozens of memorable characters of strong women.
Adina Bar-Shalom: daughter of the late rabbinical leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Adina is founder of a movement that promotes an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle that is more socially open and places more emphasis on higher education.