Defense Ministry hopes teens will learn history through repairing monuments

In an effort to connect high school students with Israeli history, the Defense Ministry plans to inaugurate a new project on Monday aimed at renovating all of the IDF memorials and monuments erected over the years for soldiers who fell during the 1948 War of Independence. According to Defense Ministry records, 140 monuments throughout the country commemorate soldiers and units who fought in the 1948 war. At least 60 are in dire need of renovations. The project, which is being overseen by the Defense Ministry's Families and Memorial Department, is being funded in conjunction with the finance and interior ministries. Hundreds of high school students from across the country are expected to participate in the project. They will be provided with tools to clean the monuments as well as written material on their histories. The Defense Ministry has also published a book containing pictures and descriptions of all the 1948 memorials. The project will be launched during a ceremony on Monday at the Kiryat Anavim cemetery outside of Jerusalem, home to a monument commemorating the Harel Brigade - one of the three brigades created at the outset of the War of Independence - which participated in the fight over Jerusalem. "We want to get youth connected with their heritage and at the same time to clean up and renew the monuments," said Aryeh Muallem, head of the Families and Memorial Department. "What is important is that youth are doing this. We want to get them involved so they learn about their history." According to Muallem, local authorities are legally responsible for the maintenance of monuments in their territory, but in many cases - due to a lack of funds - the memorials are not kept in good repair. "This year, we're celebrating 60 years since the establishment of the state. The least we can do is fix up the monuments as an expression of appreciation and respect to the fighters from 1948," he said.