(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Two weeks ago at the Herzliya conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his office was working on an extensive plan to reconnect Israel's youth to their heritage through their feet.
In his speech, he spoke about lost values and about how he planned to revive them by designing a "Heritage Plan" that would invest NIS 500 million in upgrading hundreds of the country's heritage sites and constructing two new Israel hiking trails to highlight the sites and make them accessible.
Netanyahu came under criticism for dedicating so much of the important address to what most people considered a vague notion, but it turns out that plans are much more advanced than previously thought. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Office will be releasing a full outline of the plan before presenting it to ministers in next Sunday's cabinet meeting.
The plan, which is being headed by cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, has been kept under wraps during the months he and his team have been working on it, but on Monday several ministers confirmed that they have been approached to partner with the Prime Minister's Office on the project.
According to government officials in the Prime Minister's Office, the project is scheduled to take place over the next six years and will upgrade and renovate both tangible and intangible infrastructure.
For now the best indication of what's in store is Netanyahu's speech, in which he explained the rationale behind the project and some of the details of what's to be found in it.
"I am talking about educating children about the values connected to our identity and heritage, teaching children to know our people's history, educating young people and adults to deepen our ties to one another and to this place," said Netanyahu. "A people must know its past in order to ensure its future."
"There are a great many talented young people here, and they are being taught to think, quite justifiably, that they are cosmopolitans. But they cannot be just cosmopolitans. A great many of them are taught in surroundings of cultural shallowness, of diluted knowledge and spirituality - and this dilutes and weakens the national strength we have spoken of here today," said Netanyahu.
"We simply must get a much broader group of young people interested in our Zionist heritage and continually encourage them to identify with the people of Israel and the Land of Israel. I want to tell you that the simplest and most original way of doing so is to connect these young people to our homeland through their feet."
Speaking about the two proposed trails, Netanyahu said: "One is the 'Historic Land of Israel' trail, which will connect between dozens of ancient archaeological sites... The second trail will be the 'Israel Experience' trail. This trail will include the treasures of our country, and will serve as a living Land of Israel museum. It will connect between dozens of stops celebrating the history of the Jewish Yishuv. It will include historic buildings, settlement sites, small museums, memorial sites and personal stories - all of which are part of our Zionist heritage."
Both Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom have confirmed that they were approached by Hauser and that they offered their cooperation in the project.
Haaretz reported a list of 150 possible initiatives, including 37 archeological sites and 109 Yishuv-era sites that are to be renovated and preserved. The plan will also include efforts to preserve intangible heritage assets such as songs, poetry and artwork through public performances and special publications.
Right wing MKs from the Knesset Lobby for Judea, Samaria, and Gaza have
approached Netanyahu requesting that he include in the plan heritage
sites located in Judea and Samaria.
"Many of our people's most important heritage sites are located in
Judea and Samaria and it is right they be included in the plan," wrote
MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Arye Eldad. Among the proposed sites are the tombs
of the patriarchs and archeological sites of Sussiya, Shilo, the
Herodion and ancient Hebron.