Two hikers carry an Israeli flag near Castel as part of the Masa 70 trek .
(photo credit: TOMER BEN-AVI)
After seven weeks and hundreds of kilometers, Masa 70, a march in honor of Independence Day, drew to a close on Monday.
Seven weeks ago, two teams of marchers started their journey from Tel Hai in the North and Eilat in the South. The northern team passed through Safed, continued along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and Haifa and then followed Israel’s coastline through Caesarea, Netanya and Tel Aviv before climbing the mountains on its way to Jerusalem.
The southern team, starting in Eilat, journeyed through Timna National Park and the Ramon Crater, arriving at Sde Boker to visit David Ben-Gurion’s graveside and honor his memory as one of the founding fathers of the State of Israel and then continued through central Israel toward Jerusalem.
On Sunday, after seven long weeks, the northern and the southern teams reunited in an event attended by some 1,000 young Israelis at the Castel fortress, a historically significant place during the 1948 War of Independence, where one of the decisive battles was fought. The event on Sunday was attended by Maj.-Gen. Motti Almoz, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and others and included a performance by singer Amir Dadon.
“In this marathon of a journey, the most important stretch is the last stretch. On Sunday we started the last stages of the march with a thousand pre-army preparatory students. We were privileged to hear the moving words of the education minister, although the one who really swept the guys was Amir Dadon,” Amichai Shikli, the head of the Tavor Academy pre-army program, wrote in a press release. “We are starting the last section of the march from Castel, a symbol of the 1948 heroism, to the Western Wall, the remnant of the Temple and the beating heart of the Jewish people.”
The social initiative to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary was organized and led by Shikli, and Eliasaf Peretz, the son of Israel Prize laureate Miriam Peretz, who dreamed of a unique initiative to celebrate the special occasion.
The main closing event was to be held on Monday night at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool followed by a march to the Western Wall, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Israel Prize laureates Peretz and Natan Sharansky and include performances by singers Rami Kleinstein and Yuval Dayan.
The trip was supported by Michael Mirilashvili, the vice president of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, who said that “The Masa (Hebrew for “journey”) 70 project symbolizes the difficult journey that took place to facilitate the establishment of the Jewish state.
And today, 70 years after the declaration of independence, our people and our country continue the same journey.”
Shikli, who joined the march for two weeks, told The Jerusalem Post that one of the most emotional moments for him during the project was when about 100 people with disabilities and another 500 people who accompanied them, joined the march during the stretch between Zichron Yaakov and Caesarea.
“The message of this project is for us to be happy and thankful that we are able to be part of the festivities around the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. This is not something that we should take for granted – that we are here, despite the situation that is so complicated at times," he said.