April 29 (UPI) -- Israel celebrated its 72nd year of independence on Wednesday as it did Memorial Day a day earlier -- mostly in isolation due to the coronavirus crisis.
The nation formally celebrates the occasion, known as Yom Ha'atzmaut, this year from Tuesday night to Wednesday evening. It immediately followed Israeli Memorial Day, which was observed from Monday to Tuesday.
Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, many Israelis celebrated Independence Day online via live stream. Entertainers including Broadway's Caissie Levy, Israeli pop star Rita and actor Josh Malina sang and performed for Internet audiences on Zoom and Facebook Live.
Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, but the dates for the public holiday change each year based on the Hebrew calendar. Next year it will be observed from April 14-15.
In commemorating the start of Israeli Independence Day on Tuesday night, Knesset speaker Benny Gantz was optimistic, but warned that Israelis will have to navigate some tough times in the recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Gantz said at a torch lighting ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl on Tuesday night the virus poses an immense challenge to all Israelis.
"Now we face an unfamiliar foe, which doesn't tell us apart -- Jews, Arabs, Druze and Circassian, Ultra-Orthodox, religious and secular, people on the right and the left," he said.
"It poses an enormous human and medical challenge, and in the process shares a valuable lesson about social responsibility: namely, that we are all our brothers' keepers. It is our solidarity and commonality of purpose that guarantee us victory. It is our communal spirit and sense of mutual responsibility that help us touch eternity."
He added that Israel's past wars have strengthened and defined the country and the Israel Defense Forces are ready to repel any threat.
Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet security service, compared the coronavirus to a new enemy.
"Right now, we are in a time of crisis," he said Wednesday. "Our struggle is not against a security threat, but rather a new enemy that is threatening our health, economy and society. The front-line today is the fight against the coronavirus.
"This is not an ordinary mission and certainly not one we are accustomed to. But at this time, it's an inseparable part of the protection of national security."