Police Sappers from Abroad Plant Trees in Memory of Jonatan Vermeulen .
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Dozens of police sappers from forty-five countries, who were taking part in a professional conference in Israel, planted a tree at the Jonatan Vermeulen Recreation Area in the western Negev’s Beeri Forest. Jonatan, who was originally from the Netherlands, fell in 2000 while on active service in the Gaza Strip with the Border Guards bomb disposal unit.
“We have come here to pay our respects to a brave young man who sacrificed his life for the security of the citizens of the State of Israel,” said Theo van der Elst, a police sapper from the Netherlands who is Chairman of the International Bomb Data center (IBDC).
Jonatan was born in Holland to a pro-Israel Christian family that moved to Israel when he was four years old. Years later, when his parents decided to return to Holland, Jonatan chose to remain alone in Israel and enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. He received a special dispensation from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands that allowed him to serve in the IDF without losing his Dutch citizenship.
“When we take on this job we are all well aware of the danger, but nothing can prepare you for the loss of a close friend,” said Itzik Azran, a friend and comrade of Jonatan’s from the bomb disposal unit.
Jonatan was twenty-nine years old when he was killed by a bomb planted by Palestinian terrorists. The recreation area in his memory was established with donations from JNF Holland and comrades from his military unit, and the site lies just a few kilometers away from the spot where he was killed. Picnic tables have been placed in the shade of a charming woodland, and a commemorative plaque telling the story of Jonatan’s life has been affixed to a large memorial boulder.
Read more about the tree planting ceremony for Jonatan Vermeulen and see photos