Israel marks 60 years as political clouds gather
Blue-on-white Star of David flags fluttered from cars, rooftops and balconies, fighter planes traced "60" in smoke trails across the sky, paratroopers dropped into the sea and a televised youth Bible quiz highlighted the place Jewish faith holds in a state mainly founded by secular Zionists.
War or the threat of it has clouded every day for Israelis since David Ben-Gurion declared their state in 1948 that was destined to be a haven for survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.
On Thursday, families gathered to focus on the positive and on national pride. "It's an emotional day," said Tzviya Gilboa, 57, among vast crowds packing sunny beaches at Tel Aviv. "Anything that is connected to Israel is exciting to me."
Keren Yohanan, 35, attended a barbecue at her cousin's home near Jerusalem. "I'm happy that Israel is 60," she said. "There is excitement but I am simply happy for what we have in Israel."
Fireworks, light shows and military fanfare launched celebrations on Wednesday and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is pursuing a deal for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, said the Jewish state craved an end to the decades-old conflict.
"In the state of Israel's 60th year, we can say that God has fulfilled his promise," Olmert said on Thursday, hours before police said they expected to ease sweeping restrictions on reporting details of the investigation into his affairs.