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Friday, 1 May, 1998, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Moments of joy and reflection
man with boy on shoulders
For many Israelis, the question is 'what does the next 50 years hold?'
The celebrations began with a night of fireworks and street dancing on the night before the 50th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

Israel's short history has been turbulent, and the anniversary is mixed with feelings of pride and sorrow.

The day before Independence Day is Remembrance Day, when Israel remembers those who died defending their state.


Netanyahu
Prime Minister Netanyahu: echoes the words of Israel's founder
In Israel's 50 year history, almost 19,000 Israeli soldiers have died in a succession of wars with the country's Arab neighbours.

At a ceremony on Mount Herzl overlooking the city, the Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, repeated the words of the country's founder, David Ben-Gurion, when he declared independence in 1948:

"Long live Israel. Long live Israel for generations to come," he said. The following day, the celebrations continued with dramatic naval and air displays. Israel's fighter jets flew in formation right across the country, while the country's warships sailed along the Mediterranean waving Israeli flags.

For the people of Israel, the occasion was full of emotion.

"It's an incredible experience. The energy is amazing, and everyone should be here," said one woman.

But their joy was often tempered with a desire for peace.

The former Labour Prime Minister, Shimon Peres was one of the architects of the stalled Oslo peace accords.

While he said he was proud of what Israel had achieve, he also said he was concerned about the next 50 years.

For Palestinians though it is a day of bitterness and loss. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been sealed off for the duration of the festivities, and Palestinians have been shut out.

For them, Israel's jubilee marks 'al-Nakba' - the 'great catastrophe' 50 years ago when some 700,000 of their people fled their towns and villages.

Meanwhile, many right-wing Israelis provoked an angry reaction by marching to the disputed settlement of Har Homa to lay a symbolic cornerstone.

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