Israel celebrates its 63rd Independence Day

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Israel's somber memorial day for fallen soldiers gave way to Independence Day celebrations at nightfall on Monday in a sudden, stark annual transition ceremony.

At Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel's national cemetery, Israelis kindled 12 huge torches to signify the start of the holiday marking Israel's 63rd birthday. Soldiers marched in formation, and fireworks lit up skies across the nation on a mild spring evening.

Speaking at the ceremony, Israeli Parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin noted that deep divisions exist within Israeli society over political and social issues. He complained that over the past year, there have been many attempts by groups to silence their opponents. "Neither side, right or left, is deserving of boycott," he said. "No ethnic group is deserving of shunning." ..........

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