A Jewish astronaut greets Israel from space.
Revelers try to set a record for the most people singing a national anthem. To celebrate turning 60, Israel is staging fireworks, air force flyovers and a birthday bash for anyone born on the day the Jewish state was founded.
Israel is marking its 60th Independence Day, which began at sundown on Wednesday, with a great sense of pride but also uncertainty about its future and doubts about prospects for peace with the Palestinians. Six decades after rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish state is still plagued by threats from abroad and an identity crisis at home.
Israel at 60 is a paradox of exuberance and despair — a country enduring near daily rocket attacks from militants while producing scientists who have pioneered Wi-Fi and instant messaging.
Its 41-year occupation of Palestinian territories has invited international condemnation. Yet Israel is a thriving democracy that has provided a haven for the world’s Jews.
This Independence Day is marred by a fresh criminal inquiry of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose legal woes are calling his political survival into question just as he is moving to forge a peace deal with the moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.
However, Israelis are putting aside their frustration with politics for what is expected to be one of the most joyous birthday celebrations since the first on May 14, 1948 — a date marked each year in Israel by the Hebrew calendar.
Independence Day began just as Memorial Day for fallen soldiers ended — a jarring contrast between solemnity and joy that underlined the link between the military and the existence of Israel.
Events marking Israel’s 60th year include plays, concerts, sports tournaments, Holocaust memorials and inauguration of a footpath around the Sea of Galilee.
NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman, the first Jewish crew member on the international space station, sent a greeting from space to the people of Israel.
“Every time the station flies over the state of Israel, I try to find a window, and it never fails to move me when I see the familiar outline of Israel coming toward us from over the horizon,” Reisman said.
Also Wednesday, Jewish communities worldwide joined Israelis in a rendition of the Israeli anthem — Hatikva (The Hope). Their goal: to enter the Guinness World Records for the most people singing a national anthem at the same time.
During the holiday, Israel has barred Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from entering Israel, fearing attempts by militants to disrupt the celebrations.
US President George W. Bush will attend a conference in Jerusalem next week marking the anniversary, along with former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and Rupert Murdoch.Israeli President Shimon Peres will host the conference, along with a party for 60-year-old Israelis born on the day Israel declared its independence, re-establishing Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.
Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car and men on foot in two separate strikes in northern Gaza yesterday, wounding four Palestinians, two of them critically, medics said.
The missiles struck near the town of Jebaliya. The critically wounded men are members of the violent Islamic Jihad group, security officials said. The Israeli military said the missiles targeted a rocket launching squad.
Late on Wednesday, medics found the body of a Palestinian woman in an area of heavy Israeli-Palestinian fighting along Gaza’s border with Israel. The woman was discovered in her home in the Abassan village in southern Gaza.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,