State offers seniors free tours of West Bank

Pensioner's Ministry initiative to provide free tours of Jewish heritage sites and settlements.

Elderly couple 520 (photo credit: Paul E. Rodriguez/Orange County Register/MCT)
Elderly couple 520
(photo credit: Paul E. Rodriguez/Orange County Register/MCT)
Senior citizens will soon have the chance to tour for free Jewish heritage sites and settlements in the West Bank under a new initiative announced Wednesday by Dr. Leah Ness, the deputy minister for pensioners’ affairs.
The program is designed to show solidarity with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who has come under fire recently for trying to expand a similar initiative for high school students.
Ness, who visited the South Hebron Hills Regional Council on Tuesday, said that her program was established to encourage pensioners, especially new immigrants, to connect with their heritage in the “Land of our Fathers.”
“It is our duty as a government to encourage and support travel and see for ourselves this lovely region. It is an integral part of getting to know the land and the State of Israel,” said Ness, who also visited the settlement of Sussiya.
“Places such as Sussiya and others throughout Judea and Samaria are the cornerstones of Jewish heritage and tradition.
These places connect our people to the land,” she stated. The Pensioners’ Affairs Ministry runs a series of free trips for senior citizens to different places around the country. Until now, however, all of those trips only took place inside Israel’s internationally recognized borders, or the Green Line.
During her trip to Hebron on Tuesday, Ness declared her opposition to a letter sent earlier this week to Sa’ar signed by some 200 teachers declaring their refusal to participate in the Ascending to Hebron program.
The teachers told local media that they felt that such trips were manipulative and would force pupils and teachers to become “political pawns.”
Until now, Sa’ar’s heritage curriculum was only for students in Jerusalem, but last week he announced that it would soon be available nationwide.
Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer attacked the plan.
It is an improper use of taxpayer money to sway Israeli citizens to support the settlers, he said.
He added that it was the result of the growing influence of far-right Likud politician Moshe Feiglin.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.