Middle East

Israel celebrates 68th birthday after solemn Memorial Day

  • Two girls hang roses on the wall of names of fallen soldiers, at the Armored Corps memorial, before a ceremony marking the annual Memorial Day for soldiers and civilians killed in more than a century of conflict between Jews and Arabs, in Latrun near Jerusalem, Israel, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Israel came to a standstill on Wednesday as sirens wailed across the country on its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

    Two girls hang roses on the wall of names of fallen soldiers, at the Armored Corps memorial, before a ceremony marking the annual Memorial Day for soldiers and civilians killed in more than a century of conflict between Jews and Arabs, in Latrun near Jerusalem, Israel, Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Israel came to a standstill on Wednesday as sirens wailed across the country on its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)  (The Associated Press)

  • Israeli soldiers stand in formation during an official state Memorial Day service for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism during a ceremony held on Mount Herzl Cemetery on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Heidi Levine/Pool Photo via AP)

    Israeli soldiers stand in formation during an official state Memorial Day service for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism during a ceremony held on Mount Herzl Cemetery on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Heidi Levine/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu places a wreath of flowers during an official state Memorial Day service for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism with a two minute siren during a ceremony held on Mount Herzl Cemetery on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Heidi Levine/Pool Photo via AP)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu places a wreath of flowers during an official state Memorial Day service for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism with a two minute siren during a ceremony held on Mount Herzl Cemetery on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. (Heidi Levine/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

In a jarring contrast, Israel is transitioning from melancholic reflection to remember its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism to joyous Independence Day celebrations.

Marked with a ceremony Wednesday night, Israel began celebrating 68 years since the modern Jewish state was formed.

The grouping of mournful Memorial Day with Independence Day celebrations is intentional, to show the link between the costly wars Israel has fought and the establishment and survival of the Jewish state.

During the day Israelis visited cemeteries and media broadcast documentaries about the country's wars and soldiers' personal wartime recollections.

A siren rang out at 11 a.m. and Israelis stood and paused to honor the fallen.

At nightfall Israel switched moods with parties, fireworks and other celebrations.