Israel's Independence Day: Meaningful memorial sites

Israel's Independence Day is the perfect opportunity to deepen our historical connection with IDF soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

By MEITAL SHARABI
May 2, 2019 09:22
Israel's Independence Day: Meaningful memorial sites

MITZPOR ASSAF SIBONI. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Next week, the State of Israel will be celebrating the 71st anniversary of its creation. Many Israelis will participate in the national pastime of holding a barbecue with friends and family on Independence Day, but others will take advantage of this special day to visit national parks, heritage sites and museums.

In my opinion, Independence Day, which immediately follows Remembrance Day, is also the perfect opportunity to deepen our historical connection with IDF soldiers who gave their lives for their country.

Here are a few suggestions for short hikes to enjoy with family and friends, during which we can also remember Israel’s heroes.

HELICOPTER DISASTER MEMORIAL

Seventy-three soldiers died in the helicopter disaster that shook the country in the winter of 1997. Near the Kibbutz Dafna cemetery, an impressive monument was erected in their memory. The monument is divided into two parts.

In the first section, you’ll see an old tree that touches the Dan River, which is gushing with water. Its branches are covered with stones that have the names of the soldiers who perished in the helicopter crash engraved on them.

This is a wonderful place for hikers to stop for a moment, to let the significance of the disaster sink in – with the sounds of nature providing the perfect background music.

Next, continue along the path that leads to the monument in the shape of a helicopter. All the names of the fallen soldiers are engraved on a stone in front of the monument, alongside a brief description of the disaster.

Directions: Drive on Road 99. About 500 meters after you pass the turnoff to Road 918, turn right at the sign onto a road that leads to the monument.

HELICOPTER DISASTER MEMORIAL (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

MENARA CLIFFS
Part of the Naftali Mountain Range, the Menara Cliffs are widely known for the popular extreme park that was built there. But it’s also home to a number of fantastic hiking trails and spectacular views of the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.
One of the most incredible spots is a mountain lookout that is named after St.-Sgt. Amir Kara, an IDF intelligence officer and nature enthusiast, who died defending the northern border settlements in 1995. It was constructed by Kara’s family members, who wanted to create a spot that reflected his personality.
You can reach the lookout by car or by riding up on the cable car that rises up sharply to the highest spot of the Great Rift Valley. From there, you can pick one of three walking trails maintained by the KKL-JNF, one of which leads to the Amir Kara Lookout.
Directions: Take the cable car or drive up Road 886..

IDO SCENIC LOOKOUT. (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

DADO’S LOOKOUT

You’ll find Dado’s Lookout at a height of 600 meters above sea level, a wonderful memorial to Lt.-Gen. David Elazar, who served as the ninth IDF chief of staff.
From the lookout, you’ll have an incredible view of Mount Hermon, the Hula Valley and Tel Avel Beit Ma’acha, and there are benches and explanations of the region, too, which make the visit much more enjoyable and interesting.
Directions: Drive on Road 90 until Metulla. Continue driving north toward Mount Tzofiya, and then follow signs to the lookout.

IDO SCENIC LOOKOUT
In the middle of the Hof Hacarmel Forest, near the Israel Trail, you’ll find a serene observation point that looks out over the coastal plain, nearby towns, the Atlit fortress and the University of Haifa.
The lookout is named after Ido Cohen, who served in the Shayetet 13 reconnaissance unit of the Israel Navy. Ido was 43 when he died of cancer, which he contracted during his military service.
There are lots of tall pine trees that provide shade, picnic tables where you can sit and have your lunch, and even a small amphitheater on site.
Directions: Drive on Road 4 and turn east toward Merav Center. Just before the entrance gate, turn left toward the lookout. Leave your car in the parking area and walk by foot down to the lookout, as you follow the Israel Trail markers.

BEIT HORON: BUSTAN HASHMONA (Credit: INBAL KLAUSNER)

BEIT HORON: BUSTAN HASHMONA
Bustan Hashmona (or Hashmona Orchard) was erected in memory of eight IDF soldiers who died during the Second Lebanon War. This unique location was chosen as the site for the memorial because one of the soldiers, Ohad Klausner, was from Beit Horon.
The orchard, which is located next to the Beit Horon Border Police base, is also home to lots of bountiful fruit trees, and there are plenty of picnic tables where visitors can stop for lunch. It’s a pretty popular spot for hikers, since there are many trails leading out from this spot, one of which will lead you up to Mitzpe Ohad, just 1.5 kilometers from the orchard.
Directions: Located on Road 443, between Modi’in and Jerusalem, at the entrance to Beit Horon.

TOM AND TOMER HILL (Credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

TOM AND TOMER HILL

Another memorial site that attracts people who love spending time out in nature is Tom and Tomer Hill. This botanical garden was erected in memory of the 1997 helicopter disaster. One of the 73 fallen soldiers was Tomer Keidar of Kibbutz Negba and another was Tom Kitain of Kibbutz Shoval. The two of them were friends from the time they studied together at the Tzafit High School. They then joined the IDF together and both died in the terrible helicopter accident.
The memorial garden contains a number of plants that are indigenous to Israel from biblical times, and signs with verses from the Torah and riddles are scattered around the grounds. In addition, Israeli folk songs can be heard playing in the background. It’s easy to find the entrance to the garden, since there is a huge pole there with 73 white doves painted on it by painter Rami Peled.
Directions: Drive south on Road 3 and turn left at Negba junction. About a kilometer before you reach the kibbutz, turn right toward Tom and Tomer Hill.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.



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