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by Judy Lash Balint
May 6, 2008

Flags are in place on every building, flagpole and many cars; the air
force has been rehearsing its formation fly-by routine for days;
platforms and lighting stand ready in the main squares in town; groups
of tourists mill about and there's a discernible festive air. But
before we celebrate the nation's 60th anniversary,we have to pay
tribute to the 22,437 Israelis who fell in the battles and terror
attacks that continue to claim Jewish lives even until today.

Tonight the country will come to a complete standstill at 8 p.m and
again tomorrow morning at 11 a.m for two minutes of remembrance of the
fragility of our existence in the Jewish homeland.

Ceremonies at every military cemetery in the country will bring out
an estimated one million mourners. Since the beginning of 2008, 16 people were
killed and 65 wounded in terror attacks--mostly in the south.

Streets are empty--everyone is at home marking the somber evening. All
places of entertainment, cafes and restaurants are closed. TV and radio stations broadcast heartbreaking stories of the young people who have died defending the country.

But other events in the week leading up to Yom Haatzmaut have stolen
the headlines--the new corruption allegations against Ehud Olmert, of
course, but it was much more interesting to contemplate the 500kg
plate of hummous that measured 4 meters across that broke the Guiness
world record for plate size and amount of hummous consumed in one go,
or maybe it was the 140 new sabras born to N. American olim who
arrived under the auspices of Nefesh B'Nefesh or the 400 new olim who
arrived from 23 countries on Aliyah Day yesterday that preoccupied our

In any event--on Thursday when Israelis finally get to celebrate
Independence Day in the traditional fashion with BBQs, fireworks and a
real day off,it will be with the usual mix of emotions that accompany
every holiday in the State of Israel--joy and sadness; appreciation
and remembrance and above all, incredulity that we've made it to 60...