Although Israel is a pretty young and geographically small country, it is home to countless sites and monuments created in memory of Israelis who lost their lives in service to the state. Throughout the country, there are literally thousands of viewpoints on mountains and memorial plaques – some erected by the IDF or official organizations, but many created by family members and friends in remembrance of their loved ones. Oftentimes, we pass one of these markers and don’t stop to learn about each person’s singular story. Below, you’ll find a few suggestions of memorial sites that will provide you with a meaningful way to spend Yom Hazikaron.
1. SAYERET SHAKED PARK
Sayeret Shaked Park, situated just east of Ofakim, is dedicated to 10 fallen soldiers who lost their lives during a skirmish fought against Egyptian intelligence squads and terrorists in the Negev starting in 1955. The park is spread out over 1,500 acres in a beautiful desert valley. Sayeret Shaked Park was established in the late 1980s. Many trees were planted and an impressive monument was erected in the park. Visitors can read the history of the unit that is detailed on the large stone in the middle of the monument, which is a simulation of an obstacle course with all the names of the fallen soldiers engraved within.
The site is also home to the torchbearer statue created by Zvika Dredikman, who himself served in Sayeret Shaked. The statue blends in nicely with the British railroad bridge over Nahal Ofakim, which was recently refurbished, so visiting the park is even more worthwhile now than it was in the past. From the bridge, you can begin a short walk around the park. Just 200 meters south of the bridge you will find a valley with exposed rock and water pits that fill up on rainy days.
Directions: Drive south towards Ofakim. Cross through Ofakim on Road 2335 and continue another 2 kilometers after exiting the city. Turn left when you see the sign for Sayeret Shaked Park.
2. NETIV HALAMED HEY
At Netiv Halamed Hey, a kibbutz in the Ella Valley in central Israel, you’ll find a monument that was erected in memory of the 35 (or the value of the letters ‘lamed’ and ‘hey’ in gematria) IDF soldiers who were killed in a battle with Arabs in the region. The IDF soldiers were killed in a brutal battle during the War of Independence. The stone monument, which is three stories high, was hewn out of the side of the mountain. There is a path and stairs that lead from one floor to another. The first floor is made up by a large stone courtyard and the second floor features a stone plaque with the names of the fallen soldiers engraved upon it. On the top floor, you will find two triangles made out of concrete, with the letters ‘lamed’ and ‘hey’ inscribed upon them, and nearby there are 35 concrete pillars.
Directions: Starting from Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hey, drive 150 meters and then turn right into parking lot adjacent to the memorial site.
3. JEBEL HOFRIYA LOOKOUT
On Israel’s border with Jordan, just two kilometers from Moshav Ein Yahav, you’ll find the sand dunes of Jebel Hofira. From the top of the hill, you will discover a fantastic panoramic view of the Edom Mountains, the Hatzeva mountain range, Nahal Arava and Ein Yahav. The lookout is situated in the southern part of Derech Hashalom and is easily accessible.
This hill, which is strategically located near the border, was captured by IDF forces in the 1970s after Jordan’s king kicked out the PLO, at which point they moved into southern Lebanon. Soon after, on the orders of defense minister Moshe Dayan, the IDF helped the Jordanians.
Directions: From Ein Yahav, drive along Derech Hashalom. Continue for two kilometers alongside the hothouses until you see the sign for Jebel Hofira.
4. BLACK ARROW
The Black Arrow Monument was established by former IDF Paratroopers Brigade soldiers who fought in reprisal operations that were carried out in response to infiltrations by Arabs into Israel between 1953 and 1956. From the monument, which details 11 different operations carried out by Paratroopers, including Operation Mivtza Kadesh, you will have a view of the Gaza Strip. Just like at many other monuments, here you will also find written and audio descriptions of the unit’s activities told by the soldiers themselves.
To the east of the monument, you will find a building surrounded by trees that is known as the Armistice Commission building, which served as the venue for meetings between the Israeli Armistice delegation and representatives from Egypt and the UN, after the War of Independence.
Next to the monument are picnic tables and a playground for children, which makes this spot a great place for taking a break with friends and family.
Directions: Drive along Road 232. Pass the entrance to Kibbutz Mefalsim and then turn right and follow signs for the Black Arrow Monument.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.