Ofer park 224.
(photo credit: )
A challenging sports day took place in the Ofer Forest on the Carmel in memory of six infantrymen from the 7002 Reservists' Brigade who fell in the line of duty, with an event dedicating the new Carmeli Path - named for the brigade.
Sergeant-Major Yaniv Sheinbroom, Sergeant-Major Gai Chasson, Sergeant-Major Elad Ram, Sergeant-Major Cyril Kazhdan, and Captain Elial Ben-Yehuda fell two years ago during Lebanon War II and Sergeant-Major (res.) Shalom Mordechai fell in 2002 while fighting terrorist who had infiltrated into the settlement of Carmei Tzur in Gush Etzion.
"This commemoration of our comrades who were killed in action is actually full of life," said Gai Maguri, Commanding Officer of the brigade and a personal friend of the fallen soldiers. "There are mixed feelings today - on one hand we mourn, while on the other we are happy to see so many people come to enjoy the forest and to commemorate the heritage of the fallen. They represent the image of the noble Israeli - comrades who are willing to contribute and to give and who sacrificed their lives."
Hundreds of people came to the special day of activities in the forest that included an emotional and moving ceremony in memory of the fallen soldiers, the unveiling of the memorial, the dedication of the bicycle path and competitions in orienteering by bicycle and on foot as well as a variety of games and activities for children. The bereaved families, friends of the fallen soldiers from the brigade, heads of KKL-JNF, guests and visitors participated in the event.
The bicycle path begins at the memorial site for the six fallen soldiers, a site, with both seating areas and also accessibility for the handicapped persons, which is one of many memorial sites for fallen IDF soldiers established by KKL-JNF in recent years. The sites are initiated by families and friends who wish to commemorate their loved ones against the background of the Israeli landscape on which they fought and for which they sacrificed their lives. At present KKL-JNF is planning a fund to aid bereaved families to commemorate fallen IDF soldiers, with help of friends of KKL-JNF throughout the world who wish to express their solidarity with bereaved families and with the State of Israel.
The ceremony was conducted by Michael Ben-Abu, Director of Israel Department, who welcomed the participants. "This new site dedicated today represents Memory. We cannot fill the void that has formed within the hearts of each member of each bereaved family, but perhaps the knowledge that visitors to this site will recognize the heritage of these special fallen soldiers, will bring some comfort."
Avraham Duvdevani, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman, spoke about Nature and our obligations. "Man and trees have been companions since Creation. We educate our children and invest in them so that their roots will grow deeply. Like trees that are felled, our sons fell, but here, their spirit lives on. Today we are commemorating six such sons who wanted to continue to grow and it is only natural to do so in this forest, on this mountain that is green throughout the year. It is our deepest wish that in the future, we will no longer need to establish any more such memorials, but as long as we must do so, KKL-JNF will fill the requests of bereaved families who wish to commemorate their loved ones."
Lieutenant-Colonel Shai Sha'anan, the brigade commander spoke about his men. "This memorial site, initiated by members of the brigade, represents another connection between Man and Nature. The many visitors who will come here will respect and thank those who sacrificed their lives to defend our Homeland and who paid the very highest price."
Liora Chasson, mother of Gai Chasson, z"l, spoke with emotion on behalf of the bereaved families. "I often ask myself how we could have gone through this difficult period without our family, friends, and fellow soldiers who were comrades in arms. During the period when this special site was being built, we met the best of Israeli society - you, the wonderful soldiers who fought alongside our sons during their last moments. I feel that you, together with us, carry our pain. Our request of you is that you continue to hold your heads high and with this site, that you continue with the joy of life. We, too, are also trying to hold our heads high because with strong embraces such as yours and strong support such as this, there is no chance that we will fall."
Lieutenant-Colonel Eyal Zamir, Division Commander, continued. "The best of our sons fell in battle so that citizens of our Land can continue to live, to make excursions into Nature and travel throughout our country. We have dedicated this place that bears their memories as a place for enjoyment and leisure - and this is how we will transmit the message to the entire people of Israel."
Captain Yonatan Gershon, Company Commander added. "Incredibly, today is both a very sad day, and also has its moments of joy. We want to express our sincere thanks to the workers of KKL-JNF and to those who contributed towards establishing this special site."
Mirta Sheinbroom, mother of Yaniv Sheinbroom, z"l, spoke words with great feeling. "It's very exciting to participate in a day like this one and to see the great love of all the members of the Brigade whose initiative created this memorial site. The knowledge that we are not forgotten and that our sons will not be forgotten, gives us a lot of strength."
Arieh Ben-Yehuda, the father of Elial z"l, supported that idea. "We have become that much stronger when we see how many people have come here today to remember our sons."
Yosari Zinaldin, Auxiliary officer for the brigade, spoke. "Commemoration is very important not only for the families but also for us, the soldiers. Today we receive a clear message, that if Heaven forbid, something happens to us, our comrades will not forget us and will support our families in every way. The boys who were killed continue to live in the memories of their friends. This meeting unites us and gives us strength. The pain that we feel has made us into one united family."
Elisha Lev, a non-commissioned officer for the brigade added. "I was educated in values of contributing and giving and this is particularly what this place symbolizes for me."
After the ceremony the children participated in a variety of activities and games. They climbed ropes between the trees in the forest, performed daring jumps from an omega and scaled a climbing wall. Inflatable play equipment was brought for younger children.
The Cohen family from Jerusalem, Uri, aged 5, Idan aged 12 and their mother Shira, noted how wonderful it was to go out to the forest during the summer. "It's great that there are organized activities during the summer vacation that help us break the regularity of the holidays at home and to go somewhere in nature with the children. They have a wonderful time in the forest."
While the children were playing, the athletes competed in orienteering and cycling. A cycling route for the entire family was paved along the entire length of the newly dedicated road in the forest. Cycling has become more and more popular in recent years, and KKL-JNF has paved cycling routes in its forests countrywide with different levels of difficulty. Cycling in nature is ecological and does not damage the flora and fauna, and therefore KKL-JNF is presently encouraging this trend and preparing many new cycling routes in addition to the existing ones. Among these is the "Israel Bicycle Route" - a cycling route that will finally extend for 1,000 kilometers from Dan to Eilat. Sections of the road will be opened to cyclists as they are completed.
Prizes were awarded to the winners of the running and cycling competitions at the end of the activity day in the forest. Zahra Dory won first place in the bicycle orienteering, and Asaf Dangur won the running orienteering race. Ella, age 14 from Kanaf on the Golan Heights who participated in the cycling event with her father and her younger sister, said: "I love cycling routes and go on a lot of trips. This route wasn't too difficult. The greatest fun was riding downhill really fast!"
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