Jerusalem, Israel - May 14, 2024 - In Jerusalem, Israel, the annual Independence Day Reception for ambassadors, international representatives, and members of the diplomatic corps based in Israel was held at Beit Hanasi hosted by President Isaac Herzog. On Tuesday afternoon, at the President’s Residence on the outdoor grounds, were Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yisrael Katz, and other senior officials, dignitaries, and a delegation of international leaders of Keren Hayesod.

In his address, President Herzog welcomed representatives from countries around the world. He noted, “These are difficult times,“ and said, “yet there is still so much to be grateful for on this 76th Independence Day of Israel. Our improbable story in Israel is a story of bold and obstinate hope. A story of rising from the depths, again and again, to build and re-build the world in the image of our dreams. Hope has always defined us. And it continues to do so now.”

He noted, “When Hamas launched its rampage of rape, murder, and abduction on October 7th, it was not only trying to weaken the State of Israel. It was trying to weaken the pillars of free, open, democratic societies. It was trying to weaken the path of innovation, progress, and prosperity. And it was especially trying to weaken the winds of warm peace blowing through our region, promising real change. For the security and integrity of every nation, we must not allow this. We must stand together as champions of moderation, democracy, and peace. We must speak loudly and forcefully against the startling spike in antisemitism, which is exposing the dangers of corrosive hate that still lurks within societies all over the world. Most importantly, we must stand together as a family of nations and respond decisively to a despicable, ongoing crime against humanity: the cruel abduction of men, women, and children, of so many different nationalities, over 220 days. Our hostages. We call upon all nations, on all of humanity to act forcefully to bring back home as soon as possible. The world cannot enable international forums to be violated by this evil force, or be misused.”

He stressed, “True victory in the fight against radical hate will come not only when we have defeated the terrorists, returned our hostages, and rebuilt our communities. But when we have built a new corridor of collaboration and connectivity, across the Middle East. It can be done. I look forward to working together with all of you to get there.“

One passed by a special wall exhibiting yellow tee shirts, one for each hostage entering from the main gate of the President's Residence. Then the guests were treated to a display of buffet tables ladened with artistically displaced and tasty foods. The theme was to help food businesses hurt by the war and those who have stepped up and voluntarily given to soldiers and evacuees. From salad to polenta, to salmon and rich desserts with a variety of iced coffees to vegan ice cream there was something for everyone and more.

Dairy Boutique Catering is located in Kibbutz Nahal Oz,  owner and head chef Louis Daskel lives in Kibbutz Mepalim with his family. Since October 7, Lewis has been recruited into the reserves as a member of the security force of the kibbutz, from which his family was evacuated.

Boza Ice Cream is an Arab-Jewish collaboration between Kibbutz Sasa, where most residents were evacuated.

Aromas of Life is a boutique pastry shop operating in Netivot, the baked goods in the pastry shop are made by hand, among others by women and men with special needs. There were too many varieties to try, but they all looked good, and the lemon tart Chaim offered was excellent. 

Don Cafe is a coffee cart that after the October 7 owner Tal Sorkis chose to channel its work to strengthen the soldiers of the IDF and the Israeli spirit. Since then, he has offered his coffee services to soldiers reservists, and evacuees from north to south of Israel. 

Noor, a Druze restaurant was opened several years ago by Basma in the village of Julis and is called "Noor" after her son (Or in Arabic). At the outbreak of the "Iron Swords" war, Basma, an IDF widow, began to cook for the soldiers. She got kosher certification so the restaurant could serve all soldiers to enjoy its dishes. Basma devotes a day a week to cooking for the soldiers.

The mood was more muted than usual, however, the reception allowed diplomats to meet and relax during these stressful times and have official photos taken. The US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew and his wife were among the hundreds of people who attended on a pleasant sunny afternoon in Jerusalem. Each guest was presented a gift of olive oil made from the olives grown on the grounds and cards of the artwork on display.