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Wednesday, April 29, 1998 Published at 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK

Israel remembers

Israel's President Ezer Weizman lights the memorial flame in honour of the nation's dead

Israel is celebrating its 50th anniversary - and remembering those who have died defending the Jewish state.

Although this year is a special anniversary, April 29 is always the country's traditional Remembrance Day.

At an annual ceremony, sirens brought Israel to a halt as thousands paid their silent respects in honour of almost 19,000 soldiers killed in wars and conflicts since independence.

Sirens sound at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem (1'8")
At the Western Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Israeli President, Ezer Weizman, accompanied by a war widow, lit the memorial flame, which will continue to burn for 24-hours.

He said Israel was stronger than ever and added: "We are facing challenges that are very important and the greatest of these is the peace process."

Paul Adams reports from Jerusalem.

Israelis are getting ready to celebrate 50 years of independence.

Blue and white flags flutter from lamp-posts, buildings and cars; events to mark Israel's turbulent history are under way throughout the country.

[ image: President Weizman:
President Weizman: "We must remember the price we have paid for peace."
But before the festivities a moment of reflection.

Almost 19,000 Israeli soldiers have died in a succession of wars with the country's Arab neighbours.

In Lebanon the fighting goes on, another six Israeli soldiers were wounded in clashes on Monday.

Israeli citizens explain their feelings about the 50th anniversary ceelbrations
The fact that Israel has still not achieved peace with all its neighbours and that agreements reached with the Palestinians seem more and more ragged, casts a long shadow over this week's celebrations.

At Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, President Ezer Weizman delivered a speech to mark the beginning of Remembrance Day.

Security throughout the city and beyond has been tightened.

Palestinians are not allowed into Israel until Sunday.

[ image: Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Army Chief of Staff:
Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Army Chief of Staff: "We remember."
It is a familiar ritual but one which still causes bitterness.

Palestinians, like Israelis, regard Jerusalem as their capital.

Efforts to salvage something from the peace process go on.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, paid a visit to Egypt's President Mubarak this morning.

After 90 minutes of discussion, there was no evidence of a meeting of minds.

Omens for next week's round of talks in London do not look good.

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In this section

Israel celebrates half-century

The people with nothing to celebrate

Moments of joy and reflection

Israel remembers

Israel at 50: a fraught triumph

Zionism - 50 years after Israeli independence

Secularism vs Orthodox Judaism

The Jewish Diaspora and Israel

Netanyahu remembers Holocaust dead

Israel sharpens its military strategy