Model behavior

A preschool teacher's suggestion results in a new exhibit at Mini Israel.

When Bracha Shefler, the director of the Early Childhood Department in the Gush Etzion Council, was planning the annual end-of-year trip for the region's preschoolers, she thought that Mini Israel would be most appropriate as a destination in light of Israel's 60th anniversary. Mini Israel, a popular tourist attraction located near the Latrun junction, features more than 350 exact-replica models of historical, religious, archeological and modern sites around Israel. "When I went to Mini Israel to plan the day, I saw that Gush Etzion was missing. I felt that the children would be disappointed that the area was not represented." Shefler then contacted the Mini Israel administration, called their attention to the absence of Gush Etzion and enlisted the help of the region's Tourism Department. "We finally decided on the Lone Oak to represent Gush Etzion. Our preschoolers visit the Lone Oak. We prepared a CD for the 60th year about the history of the area, and they know the tree's significance," says Shefler. After the destruction of the Gush Etzion communities on the eve of Israel's independence, the survivors and their children would hike to a vantage point on the Israeli border, where at a distance they could view the area's sole surviving tree, which became known as the Lone Oak. Located in the center of Gush Etzion, the tree was a sign of hope for 19 years, until the area was resettled in 1967. "The staff at Mini Israel made an amazing model with precise details of the Lone Oak, based also on aerial photographs," says Shefler. "Like its location in real life, it's located in Mini Israel near the models of Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs." According to Mini Israel staff, this is the first time an exhibit has been added as the result of a visitor's remark.