JNF USA Queen of Sheba Mission

On the morning of December 29, 2005, two suicide bombers blew themselves up south of Tulkarem, when they were stopped and searched by a patrol of the Israeli army's "Nachshon" battalion.

kkl (photo credit: kkl)
(photo credit: kkl)

Dedicates Menorah Memorial and "Uri's Way"

On Thursday, March 4, family, friends, fellow soldiers and members of the JNF USA Queen of Sheba mission to Israel, gathered in Nesher Park near Haifa, to dedicate a menorah-shaped memorial and educational trail in memory of Lieutenant Uri Binamo.

On the morning of December 29, 2005, two suicide bombers blew themselves up south of Tulkarem, when they were stopped and searched by a patrol of the Israeli army's "Nachshon" battalion. Lieutenant Uri Binamo, the patrol's 21 year old commanding officer, had instructed the patrol to meticulously check every car coming out of Tulkarem. When he saw a taxi whose passengers looked suspicious to him, Lieutenant Binamo decided to check them out himself. He ordered one of the passengers, whom he was particularly suspicious of, to take off his coat. At the same time, Binamo commanded a soldier standing next to him to take shelter. While this was going on, the Palestinian set off the explosives he had concealed under his coat. As a result of the explosion, Lieutenant Uri Binamo was killed. His determination prevented a suicide bombing and saved the lives of many Israeli citizens. For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor by the Israel Defense Forces.

Rosie Binamo, Uri's mother, told us the story of how this memorial project came about: "I was in the United States speaking on behalf of Israel, and KKL-JNF's Tali Tzur heard me and asked if I would be willing to share my story with KKL-JNF missions in Israel. I agreed. I met with groups that came to Israel after the Second Lebanese War and wanted to help restore the burnt forests of the north. One day it hit me, I guess I wasn't ready until then. I realized that the perfect way to remember Uri was to create a memorial and educational trail here, in the forest he loved so much, where he would play and hike.

"The menorah symbolizes his bravery, and the educational trail offers activities related to camouflage and observations. We chose this because Uri designed a special insignia for his army brigade comprised of a chameleon, who is a master of camouflage, and the grey forest lizard, which is known for its strength and determination. These are the specialized skills to survive that Uri taught his soldiers. Uri loved experiencing, and Uri's Way offers parents and children an experience of camouflage in nature as they walk through the forest. This is a very moving project for us, and the KKL-JNF people have become like family. It feels like a lifelong connection, our bonds have become bonds of friendship."

The ceremony began with the unveiling of the dedication plaque by Uri's father Avi and mother Rosie, his two sisters, and the soldier that was with Uri when the terrorist blew himself up. It continued with the unveiling of the menorah memorial by soldiers from the Nachshon Battalion.

The first speaker was Lieutenant General Tamir Shalom, commander of the Nachshon Battalion, in which Uri served: "The reality in Israel is that without guns, we cannot build houses or plant trees. We must be alert, lest our hands be weakened. Our fate commands us to be armed, strong and determined. We stand here, in the green forests of the Carmel Mountains, and declare that we will never forget Uri, who is an eternal soldier of the Nachshon Battalion. The menorah memorial that we dedicated today tells the story of Uri's journey. Uri is an eternal source of light for the people of Israel, whom he so bravely protected. With the passing of time, missing Uri has become part of our daily lives. This natural forest, where he often came together with his family, is, like Uri, an inspiration for us all. We recently celebrated the holiday of Purim, when the Jewish people were saved from genocide. It is the perfect time to express our gratitude to Uri, whose bravery enabled millions to continue celebrating."

Mr. David Amar, the mayor of Nesher, said that words cannot express the sadness we still feel at Uri's loss: "Uri's heroic death is the sacrifice the Jewish people must make to live in peace and quiet in this region of the world, because we have no other home. We pray for peace, we ask that "He Who makes peace in His heights, should also make peace for us', but we live in the Middle East, so while one hand is extended in peace, the other hand must hold a gun. What Uri did was a result of the education he received at home, and we will always be grateful to him."

Ze'ev Kedem, who emceed the ceremony, spoke on behalf of KKL-JNF: "A few weeks ago, Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister of Italy, visited Israel. At the time, he said he would like to establish an organization like KKL-JNF in Italy. That's a great idea, but we need to remember that there is one factor that really makes KKL-JNF unique. KKL-JNF is not just a local organization, KKL-JNF means Jews all over the world. The JNF USA Queen of Sheba mission that is here with us today is part of this project, which is a shared endeavor. We could not do what we do without your help."

Ms. Tali Tzur, KKL-JNF emissary to New Jersey, who accompanied the American women's delegation to Israel, spoke about her personal connection with Rosie, Uri's mother: "I met Rosie four years ago; a smart, moving and brave person, a bereaved mother. Our paths crossed, we share the Israeli reality. Her story is our story, Israel's story. From all the great stories Rosie told me about Uri, I feel as if I know him on the one hand, while on the other hand, I missed an opportunity to meet a hero. KKL-JNF is committed to your legacy - your values and your energies produced this project. On behalf of the KKL-JNF Women's Campaign for Israel, I can tell you that we will cherish your values and bravery forever."

The last speaker was Rosie Binamo, Uri's mother, who addressed the audience on behalf of her family: "We welcome you to Uri's Way, and would like to take this opportunity to thank the KKL-JNF Women's Campaign for Israel for the generosity and warmth they expressed by their decision to support this project. Our collective vision made the menorah and educational trail into a reality, and made this site a place where my son's short life is meaningful for the future.

"This park reminds us of the circle of Uri's warmth, and being here is almost like being with him. Uri's grandparents survived the horrors of the Holocaust to see their beloved grandson killed defending the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. On that fateful day of December 29, 2005, this 21 year old soldier put up a checkpoint on the border, declaring that 'no terrorist will get past me'. He knew that the shopping malls and public places were packed with people celebrating the Hannukah holiday. We chose to build the menorah in the shape of a wave, to express the link between commemoration and the continuation of life. Uri's Way, the trail through the forest, challenges visitors to learn about how camouflage is used for survival as they wind through the forest. Many families come here, creating happy memories for the future, learning by doing, which was Uri's Way. Uri's Way will inspire seeds for future projects and strengthen our bonds to our land."

Tali Tzur told us a bit about the mission: "The goal of this mission is for American women to see Israel through the eyes of women living in Israel. We will be meeting soldiers, businesswomen, chefs, women who live in the Negev and on the northern border, you name it. When I suggested this project to the women, they immediately agreed to support it. Today is the completion of two years of hard work.
Elisa Schindler, national director ofthe JNF Women's Campaign for Israel, met Rosie at Nesher Park two yearsago: "We visited Uri's grave and were very moved and inspired. Wewanted to do something to honor his memory, and the idea was to do ithere, which we all felt was the perfect place. Through the good gracesof JNF USA CEO Russell Robinson and the dedication of KKL-JNF inIsrael, the dream has become a reality.

"There are fourteen women on thisyear's mission, and we have a really busy schedule. We'll be inJerusalem for Shabbat, where we'll be heaving Friday evening dinnerwith KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and his wife Dalia. Being herefor the dedication ceremony is really the highpoint of our trip. When Ilook at this exquisite menorah, I am awed and humbled by the bravery ofIsraeli parents who send their children to fight for their country. Themiddle candle, the shamash, represents Uri's towering strength. If notfor Israel, Jews all over the world would not have a place to callhome."

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