To commemorate the three years that have passed since the murder of the three youths and the Jewish holding in Oz veGaon, a ceremony was held to dedicate the Zionist Path in the center of the preserve, attended by more than 1500 people from all parts of Israel. The JNF, the World Zionist Organization, the Zionist Council of Israel and the Gush Etzion Council joined in the event, which was led by Women in Green.
For the Arutz 7 report (including a short movie and pictures): http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/232226
For a link to all the pictures (credit Elad Pessach) https://eladpessachphotography.smugmug.com/Commercial/Oz-VeGaon-3yrs-SMALL/
More than 1500 people from all areas of the Land of Israel gathered 2 days ago (Sunday, July, 9, 2017) at the Oz veGaon Preserve in the heart of Gush Etzion, for an event to commemorate three years since the murder of the three youths, Gil-ad Shear, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, Hy”d.
For the event, Women in Green, which for the past three years, has been developing the preserve as a site for tourism, education and Zionism, joined together with the JNF, the World Zionist Organization, the Zionist Council of Israel and the Gush Etzion council.
Distributed among the paths at the preserve were playground equipment for children, stalls displaying local products and more. The main event began with words of greeting from Yehudit Katsover, one of the leaders of Women in Green, and immediately afterward, Deputy Head of the Zionist Organization, Yaakov Hagoel was invited to cut the ribbon and dedicate the Zionist Avenue with quotations from Zionist leaders over the generations.
Nadia Matar spoke words of gratitude to the donors from all parts of Israel and the world, to the youth who volunteered to work over the three years to prepare and improve the preserve, to the heads of the Zionist Organization, to the JNF, to the people of the Gush Etzion council, to the parents of the three youths who were abducted and murdered and for whom the preserve is named, for supporting the founders of the preserve by their presence and their participation in the various activities.
Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Gush Etzion Council, then spoke at the event, noting dedication and sacrifice as the values that can be seen in the ground of the Land of Israel under every stone and every tree; everything here speaks of dedication, everything here speaks of self-sacrifice. The holy ground of Gush Etzion was founded as the defenders of the Gush defended Jerusalem; they sniped at the enemy and prevented him from reaching Jerusalem. Even when the Jewish leaders in Israel at the time decided that there was no chance, that they must retreat, they refused to retreat, saying that our only answer is to remain here to assure the perpetuity of Jerusalem”.
“We are here today, after 70 years, and again we are commemorating the fall of our sons, again we are commemorating the shedding of pure and innocent blood and yet, we say that we have nothing but the eternity of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion has no choice but to build and develop”, said Ne’eman, and addressed the heads of Women in Green saying: “With your strength (Oz) you raised our splendor (Gaon). We rely on you to continue”.
Yaakov Hagoel, acting deputy head of the World Zionist Organization, noted in his speech the days after the murder of the three boys, “days when we all came together as one family, significant days in shaping us as a people. I very much hope that we will remember to unite as a people not only during hours of crisis. This place was established as the Zionist response to murder and abduction. We, thank G-d, are not abductors nor murderers. We are builders and bringing up children here and this is our Zionist response”.
Hagoel mentioned the visitors at the preserve and the children who play in it. This sight, to him, is part of the realization of Herzl’s vision that he spoke about at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, 120 years ago. “There remains a lot more work to complete the vision of an exemplary state and we will also meet this challenge, which Herzl placed before us”.
He also spoke of the absurdity of UNESCO’s declaration last Friday regarding the Cave of the Patriarchs. Hagoel said that the situation where some of the people in Israel do not internalize the historic connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs is what leads to resolutions of this kind.
Hagoel also said, at the event: “This hill is a symbol of the unity of the People of Israel in the Land of Israel and in the diaspora, a symbol that despite the disagreements and rifts, we must maintain the unity of the people forever”.
The next speaker was Hernan Felman, Deputy Head of the JNF, who told of his past as a fighter in the Six Day War and of the first trip in the days after the war, a trip to Gush Etzion. Today, said Felman, he looks to the right and to the left, and sees a tremendous difference between the desolation that existed then, in those days, and the building and growth of today.
Building is the true Zionist answer to murder and terror. To build another place, another school, more kindergartens – this is the most appropriate answer that this people can ask for”, he said, noting data about the activity of the JNF in Judea and Samaria, buying land, allocating land and reserves of tens of thousands of acres. He sealed his words with a promise and a hope: “In memory of the children we will continue to develop the area, we will continue to populate Judea and Samaria. Some day we will declare Israeli sovereignty over the territory and we will thus fulfill the Zionist vision”.
Bat Galim She’ar, mother of Gil-ad, Hy”d, focused on the importance of the vision and the dream of the people who desires life and a state that desires to progress and develop.
She’ar related to the connection between the preserve and the Zionist Organization, a connection that in her eyes, is “natural for this place and for the People”. She said that while the People of Israel in the Land of Israel numbers 6-7 million Jews, there is still a similar number of Jews living abroad. “If we understand the power of the connection of living together, we will understand the power that we have in the entire world. They care about us and we care about them. We must work toward this becoming part of our consciousness. One of our challenges is to emphasize our connection and the connection of the Jews in the diaspora and to strengthen this connection”.
She’ar thanked Katsover and Matar on behalf of the three families of the murdered youths: “You had big dreams for this place and you do wonderful things and you are still active. We are with you, with appreciation and respect”.
She’ar ended her words by mentioning the difference between the prophecy of Moses and the prophecy of Balaam, according to Rabbi Haim from Volozhin, who saw the main difference between the two prophecies from the positive point of view of Moses in contrast to the negative one of Balaam. Rabbi Haim of Volozhin likened this to the difference between the eagle and the bat, both of which wait for the moment of sunrise, but while the eagle looks forward to daylight, the bat waits for the hours of darkness to be active. “Their point of view is totally different. Do they act for the good and a desire to increase the goodness, even in times of trouble or from the desire to increase the negativity and the darkness? It is our point of view that creates reality, both as parents who have met with tragedy as well as any person from his own point of view”.
The final speaker was Uri Yifrach, father of Eyal, Hy”d: “Three years, three youths, three families, Nadia, Yehudit and the Divine Presence, which also makes three”, he began. “The story began not far from here, three years ago. The story held all of us for 18 days of searching, searching ourselves, a searching that perhaps began to reveal to us why we are here and the meaning of this People in this Land. This People continued during a unique summer, into Operation Protective Edge, a meaningful summer, a summer that continued and taught us what all those around us want and where we are within this place; and this place, a few hundred meters from where the abduction took place became a place of building and growth, a true Zionist response”.
Uri cited a passage from things that Eyal had written on Israel’s Memorial Day: “Go out, try, take a breath of air, grow, fall down, arise, fall again a thousand times, but know that if you fell a thousand times, it means that you still have the power to rise. This can be compared to what is happening today in Israel, on Memorial Day. The question arises: why do we need all of this sorrow, and the answer to this is actually the question – for what purpose, for the country, for the People of Israel, for life that we create when we rise after falling. A soldier is something universal. There is no such thing as a private student, a student who learns only for himself, rather, a student learns with his teacher for the eternity of the People of Israel”.
The event ended with a panel on the question of the challenges facing Zionism in the coming decade. The panel consisted of Israel Harel, Dr. Ran Baratz, Raheli Frenkel, Gusti Yehoshua Braverman, Rav Israel Rosenblatt, Itamar Eichner and Matan Peleg.Details about the fascinating panel will be sent out in a separate mail/
Photography of the ribbon cutting: Gershon Elinson. Women in Green
Photography of the audience at the ceremony: Elad Pesach. Women in Green