Torch Lighting Ceremony 2019

"אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ בּוֹ”
"A Person Who Inspires" (Numbers 27:18)

“The Israeli Spirit” is the theme for the celebration of Israel’s 71st anniversary. Each year, individuals are chosen to light one of the 12 torches (representing the 12 Tribes of Israel). Each torch lighter introduces themselves and closes with the words “V’le’tiferet Medinat Yisrael” - ולתפארת מדינת ישראל, “To the glory of the State of Israel.”

The diverse group of people represents a variety of fields: “The individuals selected have achieved incredible accomplishments... things which encompass the Israeli spirit which inspires us to work to change our society for the better.” (Israeli Minister of Sports and Culture, Miri Regev)

2019 Torch Lighters with MK Miri Regev. Photo credit: Yoav Dudkevich


“And God answered Moses, 'Single out Joshua son of Nun, a person who inspires and lay your hand upon him.'” (Numbers 27:18)

When the time has come to appoint a new leader to take over from Moses, God commands Moses to appoint Yehoshua, for he is a man in whom there’s spirit.” The Midrash interprets this quality of being a person in whom there is spirit in several ways; suggesting that Moses pleaded God to appoint a leader who will know to interact with each individual according to their ways of being/thinking and seeing the world as well as knowing how to address the things that challenge them. Then God asks Moses to “lay your hand upon him,” which is the ritual of transmitting the leadership to Yehoshua. The Midrash explains this act metaphorically, saying that Moses should transmit the leadership like lighting one candle with another candle; Just like the candle that is used for lighting doesn’t lose his light (spirit), so would the light within Moses be enough for both and more. (Source: Midrash)

  1. Why was it important that the leader for the people of Israel be “a person who inspires?”
  2. Who is someone that inspires you? Why?

2019 Torch Lighters

Who has been chosen this year and why?


Morris Kahn

The philanthropist who sponsored Israel’s first private lunar initiative. The spacecraft, aptly named Beresheet ("In the Beginning," and also the first word in the Torah) marked the smallest spacecraft by weight, and the longest journey from the Earth to the Moon.

Kfir Damari (Photo credit: SpaceIL)   

Kfir Damari

Co-founder of SpaceIL, whose ingenuity and perseverance made Israel the seventh country to get to the Moon, and the fourth country to reach the surface.

Marie Nahmias (Photo credit: YNet)  

Marie Nahmias

The 92-year-old from Afula is a Holocaust survivor, mother of eight children, and foster mother to 52 children with special needs.

Avi Nesher (Photo credit: Maariv)  

Avi Nesher

A director of 20 films, including the award-winning “Dizengoff 99” and “Turn Left at the End of the World.” His 17-year old son, Ari, was killed in a hit-and-run accident at the end of 2018.

Lt. Col. Shai Siman Tov (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Lt. Col. Shai Siman Tov

Siman Tov was injured by the collapse of a tunnel beam during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Following rehabilitation, he returned to command his soldiers despite being wheelchair-bound.

Yehudah Poliker (Photo credit: Alchetron)  

Yehudah Poliker

A son of Holocaust survivors, Poliker is an Israeli singer known for songs delving into the identity of the children of Holocaust survivors. Poliker will light the torch to honor children of Holocaust survivors, as well as all Israeli musicians.

>> Ashes and Dust: How Israelis Commemorate the Holocaust
>> WATCH: Ashes and Dust
>> Great Songs by Yehuda Poliker

Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaar, and Racheli Fraenkel (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaar, and Racheli Fraenkel

The mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014 will light a torch. This is the first time three people are lighting together. Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped by terrorists on the night of June 12, 2014, and their bodies were found 18 days later. The kidnapping was later seen as a turning point in Operation Protective Edge (the Israel-Gaza conflict in the Summer of 2014). The three mothers have dedicated themselves to creating unity among the Jewish People.

>> Racheli Fraenkel's story (JNF)
>> Racheli Fraenkel at the torch lighting rehearsal on Har Herzl

Gil Shlomo (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Gil Shlomo

A 17-year-old outstanding high school student who has lived under the constant threat of rockets from the Gaza Strip. She devotes her time to fighting for social justice in society and to the Israeli Scouts, Tzofim, who are celebrating 100 years.

Moran Samuel (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Moran Samuel

Samuel is a paralympic sports competitor who continued to play basketball following a long rehabilitation from becoming disabled at 24. She later changed sport and won various competitions in rowing, culminating in a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. She is also a children’s physiotherapist and the founder of Transparent Boundaries, which aims to change young people’s perceptions of those with disabilities.

>> Front cover of Yediot Aharonot sports section, featuring Samuel waving the Israeli flag in her wheelchair, saying, “I am a sportsperson, a woman, married to a woman, mother, and wheelchair-bound. I represent values that the State of Israel wants to be proud of.”
>> Moran Samuel's story, in her own words
>> InfoLive: Moran Samuel singing Ha'tikvah after the wrong anthem was played during her pre-Paralympic International win.

Menashe Zalka (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Menashe Zalka

Menashe is a footballer (captain of Hapoel Hadera) and reservist paratrooper. He is also a role model and activist for the Ethiopian community.

Dr. Hodaya Oliel (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Dr. Hodaya Oliel

The 27-year-old completed her medical studies despite coping with cerebral palsy.

Dr. Hila Hadas (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Dr. Hila Hadas

Hadas is the CEO of Enosh, a non-profit organization that helps rehabilitate mental health victims. She works to remove the stigma of mental health issues as well as creating new services for those who use them.

Dr. Salman Zarka (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Dr. Salman Zarka

The Druze doctor is the director of the Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat, and has treated over 1000 injured Syrians. His team has given life-saving care to citizens of an enemy country. He is a world-renowned expert in public and military medicine, and lectures in universities. 

>> Israeli Doctor Honored for Saving Wounded Syrian Kids (i24 News)

Jeff Finkelstein (Photo credit: Ynet)  

Jeff Finkelstein

The head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has been working to heal the Jewish community after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Finkelstein is also reaching beyond the Jewish community, raising funds for New Zealand mosque massacre victims. 

Knesset Member Miri Regev stated that "Finkelstein represents the growing spirit of brotherhood and solidarity of our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora. Standing next to the families of the victims after the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue and the families of those murdered in a terrorist attack in a mosque in New Zealand is an expression of the supreme principle of the spirit of the Jewish people… ‘and you shall love your neighbor as yourself’. I am proud that you are chosen to represent our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora…”

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog congratulated Finkelstein on his choice to connect the Jews of the Diaspora: "This is the right choice for a government that will connect a common fate between Israel and world Jewry in moments of joy and bereavement. Jeff heads a Zionist Jewish community that exemplifies a rich Jewish life, full of love for Israel. "


  1. What themes and values do you see in each of the torch lighters that encompass "The Israeli Spirit?" How might each person’s story inspire others?
  2. What common threads can you find across the torch lighters?
  3. There is one torch, known as the Diaspora torch, that is reserved for someone representing the Jewish world outside of Israel. Who would you nominate to light this torch and why?