By Times of Israel–

Thousands of Israeli citizens and visitors gathered Tuesday at parks and beaches, at official ceremonies and even in the streets to celebrate Independence Day.

The festivities began Monday night, in accordance with the Jewish lunar calendar, with parties, concerts and fireworks in cities across the country.

Israelis visited museums and army bases, attended official ceremonies, watched the IAF flyover and — in keeping with Israeli tradition — barbecued.

Tourist sites were packed to capacity Tuesday and main highways left congested as hundreds of thousands of people headed out to celebrate the holiday.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority said it closed some of its national parks due to too many visitors. The national parks at Ein Hemed, Horshat Tal and Mayan Harod were all closed after filling to capacity.

Heavy traffic was also reported on the approach roads to the Ashkelon national park.

Some 50,000 people spent the day on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the north of the country, and tourist sites along the water line stopped accepting visitors due to overcrowding.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin attended a formal ceremony decorating 121 outstanding IDF soldiers. The prime minister and Education Minister Naftali Bennett also attended the annual Bible competition, and congratulated this year’s winner — 15-year-old Sagiv Lugasi of Ma’alot.

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