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Against all odds, Israel marks its 'fantastic success story'

| Sunday, April 14, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

JERUSALEM — In 65 years, Israel has surpassed the dreams of its founders, emerging as the Middle East's strongest military force, a global high-tech powerhouse and a prosperous homeland for the Jewish people.

Yet on the eve of Israel's 65th anniversary, peace with its Arab neighbors has yet to be resolved. Iran's nuclear program could be used against the Jewish state, and the 46-year occupation of Palestinian territories ignites domestic and international tensions. Without a partition, Arabs could one day outnumber Jews, threatening Israel's democratic nature.

Israel began observing its annual Memorial Day on Sunday evening, honoring fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks. At 8 p.m., air raid sirens sounded nationwide to mark a minute of silence. A two-minute siren is planned for Monday.

“Today there are also those who rise up against us and threaten to destroy us. They did not succeed in the past, and they will never succeed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Memorial Day ceremony Sunday. Netanyahu's older brother, Yonatan, was killed in a 1976 operation.

At sundown Monday, the country abruptly will shift its mood to mark Independence Day. The transformation from grief to joy is an annual ritual meant to show the link between sacrifices and accomplishments.

Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. Israel marks the day according to the lunar Hebrew calendar. This year the Hebrew date is April 15-16.

The country is thriving. It has weathered the global financial crisis better than most, with unemployment below 7 percent and a growing economy.

As a “startup nation,” it has pioneered breakthroughs, including Wi-Fi technology and instant messaging. In the past decade, Israeli scientists have won six Nobel prizes in chemistry and economics.

“The state of Israel is truly a fantastic success story, perhaps among the greatest success stories of the 20th century,” said Tom Segev, an Israeli author and historian. “There's an Israeli culture, a renewal of the Hebrew language. The most amazing thing is that we now have a third generation of Israelis for whom the country is a given. ‘Israeliness' has become something that we take for granted.”

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