The 75th Independence Day of the State of Israel was celebrated in the Liechtenstein Garden Palais. In the presence of Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and a large part of the Austrian federal government I had the privilege to moderate the evening. Due to Covid, for five years, no Yom Hazma'ut (independence) celebration had taken place in Vienna. Now it was again possible to celebrate this occasion together.
"If you will, it is not a fairy tale" Theodor Herzl had written in 1807 after the Zionist Congress in Basel. Fifty years later, the time had actually come. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israeli independence in Tel Aviv, and the Jewish state was born. Today, the country is characterized by an incredible diversity, discursiveness, as we have experienced in the past weeks and months, and at 75 years of age, carried by an enormous strength and freshness. How volatile the situation of the country is, unfortunately, is shown again and again and also in the hours of our celebration there were attacks of the terrorist organization Hamas from Gaza on the south of Israel.
At the Palais Liechtenstein, however, the joy over the 75th Independence of the State of Israel prevailed.
At the same time, two personalities who are particularly committed to Israel were also honored. Since 2022, the Israeli Embassy in Austria has presented an award for special services to the friendship between Austria and Israel, the Israel Friendship Award. This year's award winners are the Vice President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber Martha Schultz and Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Anton Zeilinger, who were lauded by Ministers Gewessler and Tanner, respectively. Both are intensively engaged in their fields for an exchange between Austria and Israel.
The sculpture, which was awarded as Israel Friendship Award, was created by the contemporary Israeli artist, David Gerstein, who taught at the Bezalel College of Fine Arts in Jerusalem. At the center of the sculpture is a hamsa as a symbol of good luck. The two hymns, sung by Shira Karmon, and music by a quartet from Camerata Masaot brought the evening to an atmospheric close.