The State of Israel is kicking off its 63rd anniversary celebrations on Monday evening with the traditional torch lighting ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who lit the first torch, said in his speech:
"Israel of 2011 is a Jewish and democratic state, which shines proudly in the heart of an oppressive and cruel Middle East.
"From bloody wars, through murderous terror. From the Altalena affair to the Reparations Agreement. From the murder of a prime minister to the uprooting of the Gaza settlers. The Israeli democracy has faced difficult and painful tests – and has passed them all."
"The Israeli society is a complex and diverse society, filled with tensions and loaded with contradicting worldviews.
"This is a society in which Jews and Arabs, haredim and seculars, settlers and leftists, all share the same fate. In such a reality, the existence of a steadfast and functioning democratic society is an achievement, the greatness of which cannot be denied. It's a wonder which has no precedent. And for that, my brothers and sisters, our heart is filled with pride today."
"On the 63rd year of our independence, many among us view the Israeli mosaic as something that must be battled against, and not as a reality that we must embrace. We have spent too much time trying to undermine our shared fate, and not enough time establishing our shared life here".
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a special televised statement in honor of the occasion.
"The establishment of the State of Israel is nothing like the establishment of other countries, Few against many, our sons and daughters fought to realize our independence.
"We have come a long, remarkable way in the past 63 years. From a poor and weak country we have turned into a strong and well-established state, a global technological power with an army admired all over the world, with scientists, writers, agricultures, everything".
"It's a special country because in the entire area west of India to the Atlantic Ocean through the Middle East and North Africa, it's an island of progress, an island of democracy, an island of development, an island of freedom. And it's our island, the island of the Jewish people."
The prime minister went on to say that the people of Israel must unite.
"On this day, it is our duty to celebrate our great achievements, success and all the hopes which have been realized.
"The saying 'Being a free nation in our country' has become the reality of our life, and these are the moments when we can put all our differences and disagreements aside. We know that there are many things which must be fixed, but we must be proud of what we've achieved and, above all, feel the power and strength of unity."