Ilan Reiss Scenic Lookout Dedicated at Rosh Ha'ayin Forest

"There could be no better time than Tu Bishvat, the holiday of the trees, to dedicate this beautiful spot. From the tree we learn to aspire to great heights and to stand tall, stable and proud.

By KKL
January 31, 2010 17:24
4 minute read.
Arava

Arava. (photo credit: Arava)

 
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"Man is like a tree of the field, and today we are dedicating this scenic lookout in memory of Ilan Reiss, a proud tree that was cut down in its prime, since, as everyone knows, ilan one of the Hebrew words for tree." KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani was speaking on Friday, January 29, at the ceremony dedicating the Ilan Reiss scenic lookout at the edge of the Rosh Ha'ayin community forest. "Trees were man's companions in the Garden of Eden, and in the Talmud we find that there was a custom to plant a cedar when a baby boy was born, and an acacia tree for a baby girl. Some say that when the child grew up and got married, the marriage canopy was made of branches from the tree.

"There could be no better time than Tu Bishvat, the holiday of the trees, to dedicate this beautiful spot. From the tree we learn to aspire to great heights and to stand tall, stable and proud. It is truly an honor for me and for KKL-JNF to be partners to this memorial project, and I would like to thank Ilan's family for their dedication and perseverance in seeing it through to its realization," Duvdevani concluded.

Hundreds of friends and family hiked five kilometers from Elkana to the site of the scenic lookout. The ceremony, which took place on a sunny winter day, was graciously facilitated by KKL-JNF's Eran Zavadi, who noted that KKL-JNF was a natural partner for commemorating Ilan's memory, "since KKL-JNF is dedicated to the love of man and the love of nature."
Major Ilan Reiss lived with his wife Leah and their four children in the village of Elkana. He served in the Communications and Computers Corps of the Israeli Army, where he was responsible for the "Masuah 400" project, which computerized the modern battlefield. On a Saturday night over a year ago, he went to play basketball with his friends. While playing, he suddenly collapsed and passed away on the spot. He was 36 years old at the time. In addition to the scenic lookout, the family also decided to found the Peirot Hailan (fruits of the tree) Foundation, which provides scholarships for outstanding students of the religious sector, and for Ethiopian immigrants.

Rabbi Yehuda Meir Stern
, the rabbi of Elkana, said that this Shabbat was not only Tu Bishvat, but also Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat when we read the Torah portion of Beshalach, which includes the song the children of Israel sang at the crossing of the Red Sea: "The song of the trees blends with the song of Israel's redemption on this special Shabbat, and Israel's redemption is in the land of Israel. We believe that this land is especially suited for our people; it is where we can grow and realize our highest potential. The way Ilan lived his life was a living example of this bond. As it says in Psalms 96, "Then shall all the trees of the forest rejoice."

Rabbi Stern read the chapter from Psalms and called on Ilan's two older sons, Itai Yehuda and Erel Naftali to recite kaddish for their father.

Mr. Moshe Sinai
, the mayor of Rosh Ha'ayin, spoke about the significance of the site chosen for the scenic lookout. "The skies are blue and it feels like spring outside. From this spot we see the mountains of Samaria on one side, and Israel's coastal plain on the other, and can understand something that people who have not been here do not always realize – how narrow Israel is at this point if we go by the Green Line. The importance of this region for Israel's security becomes evident to anyone standing here.

"Israel was able to defeat its enemies time and time again not only because of superior weaponry, but primarily due to the spirit of its people. Ilan embodied Israel's spirit; he was a thinking person with a conscience, and an example for the next generation. When we stand here and enjoy the magnificent view, we remember Ilan and recommit ourselves to our country's growth. I am proud of KKL-JNF for choosing to commemorate Ilan's memory at this site."

Lieutenant Colonel (res.) Amir Ziv, who served with Ilan in the IDF, said that he knew Ilan for over ten years: "When Ilan began working with computers, he really was just like a tree; he took root right away and grew at an amazing pace. He played a key role in military computerization. There is also his family tree – together with Leah, they grew four proud branches, Itai, Erel, Shira and Michael. Ilan, we will never forget you and you will always be sorely missed."

Little Shira
read a poem she wrote, telling her father how much she missed "your hugs and kisses, our Shabbat meals, the walks we would go on, and most of all, you. Please watch over us, and I hope you will always be proud of us."
The moving ceremony concluded with the four children planting four oak trees in the Rosh Ha'ayin Forest, after Itai read the Planter's Prayer.

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