(photo credit: )
Arbel Reich z"l was a member of Yuvalim, a communal settlement in the Galilee, who served as a combat soldier in the Givati patrol unit and fell in a gun battle with terrorists from Gaza on 12th July 2007. In his memory KKL-JNF and the Arbel family dedicated a lookout post facing Mount Arbel and overlooking the Kineret, one year after his death. On what would have been Arbel's 23rd birthday KKL-JNF and his family dedicated another project in his memory - the Arbel viewpoint and route in Yuvalim.
The dedication was attended by Arbel's family, friends, Givati soldiers, members of Yuvalim, KKL-JNF personnel headed by Co-Chairman, Avraham Duvdevani, Matan Vilnai, deputy Defense Minister, Yoav Galant, General of the southern command, Ron Shani, Chairman of the Misgav regional council and Adi Eldar, Mayor of Carmiel. Since Arbel loved music and nature, the ceremony included musical items performed by the children of Yuvalim, his friend Tuval Cohen, and Yossi Cohen, Arbel's drum teacher, who composed a special piece of music in his honor.
In the heart of Yuvalim, near the new residential area, KKL-JNF has paved a path leading to the Arbel viewpoint from where one can look over western Galilee - a panoramic view of 300 degrees encompassing Galilee settlements surrounded by olive trees, KKL-JNF groves, hills and mountains. The vista evokes an instant love of nature. A further path links the Arbel viewpoint with yet another hill, making a perfect trail for children from the community, families, and nature lovers hiking in the Galilee.
Since the Second Lebanon War KKL-JNF has taken upon itself to commemorate the heroic soldiers who gave their lives for the State of Israel. KKL-JNF has been joined in this endeavor by the families of the fallen. Together they have established groves of trees, viewpoints, hiking trails and other nature projects, to serve as a lasting memorial to the soldiers' bravery and self-sacrifice for their country.
The ceremony was conducted by Michael Ben-Abu, director of KKL-JNF's Israel fundraising department who noted that "we hope all who visit this scenic site will think of Arbel - his values, his smile, his mischief, his love of nature, his willingness to pull his weight. May we all learn to follow the beautiful path of Arbel."
"Man is merely a pattern in the landscape of his homeland." said Avraham Duvdevani, KKL-JNF Co-chairman. "Today we are gathered together in the community where Arbel was born and raised. Establishing a viewpoint at the place where he grew up, where he played is the right and proper thing to do. In this beautiful spot you withdraw into yourself, and you can commune with the memory of Arbel and with his educational message. You are alone with the memory of the fallen, the most holy and elevated of the Jewish people, those who were prepared to sacrifice themselves for the State, the Land, and the people. It is for this reason that KKL-JNF has undertaken to perpetuate the memory of the soldiers, our sons who have fallen since Lebanon War II. We are proud of Arbel. He was very special in his quiet love of the land, and we thank his family for involving KKL-JNF in this special commemorative endeavor."
Deputy Minister of defense Matan Vilnai added that "Young men like Arbel give us the right to be here, they are the source of Israel's strength and the strength of the Jewish people. I am grateful to the Reich family for their contribution to the State of Israel."
At the viewpoint itself, Arbel's special qualities are commemorated: he was a young officer who loved nature and believed in people. The viewpoint has a corner for preparing coffee, complete with the instructions for making coffee Bedouin-style, which Arbel recorded in his diary, which was found after his death. The seating area faces the magnificent scenery. There you can read the thoughts of the young officer. This is what he wrote:
"A week ago I assumed the position of officer. While I was a rookie soldier I thought about it a lot - how an officer should behave, how he should appear, how to get his command to follow him and respect him. I hope I can succeed in conveying to them the things I wholeheartedly believe in: Friendship, Love of the Land, its people, and its scenery, Individual and collective passion, Willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for the State of Israel, Humility. I pray for success. 26.12.2006"
A large rock, also facing the view, bears the words: "The Arbel Lookout created in loving memory of Arbel Reich was established by the Reich Family with generous contributions from relatives, friends and JNF supporters of Pittsburg, P.A - USA"
Gilad Or, Arbel's basic training officer, spoke of his special bond with Arbel. "I was his officer when he enlisted. I knew right away that he wanted very much to contribute. We were always close. I'll never forget the time he was on guard duty. When I approached him he saluted. I asked him what music he would like to listen to on guard duty. He was surprised and with a shy smile he asked for a song that I also liked. I went the officers' living quarters and played the disk over the loudspeakers. That's when I became his friend as well as his officer. After that we had many moments together that I carry with me all the time."
A soldier from Kfar Saba who served in Arbel's regiment, Amir ben Horin, said: "We enlisted at the same time. Actually Arbel was the first person I met in the tent. It didn't occur to me to speak to him, but he immediately initiated the contact between us and we became close friends. He had a good heart. He had integrity. He was the social one, urging us all to get together, to hang out, and to go on hikes. I miss him."
Lieutenant Colonel Gur Schneiderman, commander of the Givati regiment, had this to add. "Not long ago when I was with the soldiers at the spot where Arbel fell, I recalled a song by Rachel the poetess: I did not sing for you, my country, nor did I praise your name. This fits so well with Arbel. Since his death Arbel has become central to the unit's fighting tradition, the exemplary model of a soldier."
Itamar Regev, chairman of Yuvalim: "Moshe and Yael Reich are among the founders of Yuvalim. As Arbel forged forward, he was undoubtedly following in the footsteps of his parents. The settlement has undertaken to take care of the path and the hill in his memory. We are grateful to KKL-JNF, the family, the planners, and the developers."
Arbel's father, Moshe Reich, warmly thanked KKL-JNF for working with the family to establish the sites in Arbel's memory and the officers and friends who attended the ceremony. "Today Arbel would have celebrated his 23rd birthday. We dedicate this site in his memory. It was established with the help of our dear friends, family, and KKL-JNF. There is no more fitting place to commemorate Arbel. He loved nature and scenery, music and hiking. After he died his personal effects were handed over to us. Among them we found the notebook in which he wrote down his thoughts. They have been engraved in the stones scattered around the Lookout Post. You will find instructions for making Bedouin coffee next to the coffee corner. You will also see the values in which he believed. Now that the viewpoints next to Ravid and Yuvalim have been dedicated - with the help of KKL-JNF - we still have another dream: to complete a hiking route that will link the two sites and we hope to fulfill this dream in the framework of the Givati unit."
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