A day to remember, a day of celebration

This Independence Day, I recommend visiting one of the many heritage sites that are spread around the country.

The Siboni Lookout in southern Israel (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The Siboni Lookout in southern Israel
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
 The sudden switch from Remembrance Day to Independence Day is very unsettling for many of us, and rightly so. Sometimes we’re in such a hurry to get to our barbecue that we forget to take a moment to remember all the people who lost their lives fighting for Israel’s existence.
And so, this Independence Day, I recommend visiting one of the many heritage sites that are spread around the country. Hiking lovers will be happy to know that there are many amazing trails with connections to this special day. Here are a few of my favorites.
Bustan Hashmona
Bustan Hashmona is a park and memorial site to perpetuate the memory of eight IDF soldiers who fell during the Second Lebanon War.
One of them was Ohad Klausner, from Beit Horon, and a lookout point was established next to the memorial called Mitzpe Ohad. A nonprofit organization called Derech Ohad maintains the park, which is located near the Beit Horon Border Police base. At the memorial, there are fruit trees, picnic tables and a large parking area. The large grounds are also a popular place for soldiers and their families to picnic.
There’s a map on site of the various trails that start at Bustan Hashmona, so I recommend parking your car there and then walking along one of the trails. One trail leads toward Mitzpe Ohad, which is about a 1.5-kilometer walk inside Beit Horon. From here, you’ll have an excellent view of the coastal plain, the Ayalon Valley and Givon. Ohad’s parents were among the founders of the Beit Horon community, and they wanted to keep their son’s memory alive in a way that would bring families together in a joyous way.
Directions to Mitzpe Ohad: Turn off Route 443 into Beit Horon.
Egrof Varomah Memorial
This memorial commemorates the 27th Brigade, also known as the Egrof Varomah (Fist and Lance) Reserve Armored Brigade. The memorial was originally built in Sinai in 1980, and moved to the outskirts of Modi’in when Israel withdrew from Sinai. But then a few years later, when the Trans-Israel Highway reached the area, the memorial had to be moved once again, to its permanent location near Elad.
At the spacious Egrof Varomah site, there is a tank sitting on a raised platform, as well as two half-tracks that were used in battle against Egypt in the Six Day War. Twenty-five IDF soldiers were killed in this battle, which took place just west of Refidim. The names of 157 members of the 27th Brigade who fell while carrying out their military duty are etched in the wall of the monument.
Directions to Egrof Varomah Memorial: Route 444, Givat Koah junction, near Elad.
Siboni Lookout
On the mountain between kibbutzim Miflasim and Nir Am sits Siboni Lookout, which was built in memory of Assaf Siboni, an IDF soldier who was killed in the 1997 helicopter disaster. You can reach the lookout by car from Nir Am, or if you prefer walking there, the trail takes about three hours from the Water and Security Museum located at the kibbutz. At the lookout, there is an enormous wind chime that moves in the wind. In addition to the nice sounds you’ll hear there, you’ll also have an incredible 360-degree view of the surrounding area, including Gaza.
Directions to Siboni Lookout: Drive on Route 34. Pass Kibbutz Nir Am, follow signs for museum and Siboni Lookout.
Shalev Baya’ar
From the restaurant Shalev Baya’ar in Kiryat Tivon, you can embark on an incredible journey to the famous cemetery where members of Agudat Hashomrim are buried. The society was founded by the Shomer organization in 1933 by Histadrut members who wanted to safeguard the rights of guards and farmers. In 1958, a small structure was built as the organization’s headquarters, and for the last 15 years the building has served as the home of the chef restaurant Shalev Baya’ar.
And when guests come to enjoy a nice meal, they can also take a few moments to visit the cemetery at the top of the hill that overlooks the Jezreel Valley. And just a few hundred meters from there stands the famous statue of Alexander Zaid, a founding father of the early Jewish defense organizations.
Shalev Baya’ar: Shikun Aleh 2, Kiryat Tivon
Mitzpe Gadot
Mitzpe Gadot is the name of the memorial site that was created at the site of an old abandoned Syrian military post called El Murtafa (The Exalted), which was captured in the Six Day War. From the memorial, which was built to commemorate the Alexandroni Brigade, you can look out over the Hula Valley and up to the Golan Heights.
There are two circular paths you can take around Mitzpe Gadot.
The longer one leads to an old fortified lookout point. There’s also a large amphitheater where groups can gather. At the site, visitors can move through the trenches and the bunkers that still remain there, and try to imagine what the kibbutz members must have felt as the Syrians bombarded them with shelling. Twice, kibbutz members had to rebuild structures that had been damaged during the bombing.
Directions to Mitzpe Gadot: Drive along Route 91. Turn toward Beit Hameches junction. The site is located about four kilometers from Gadot junction.
Mount Bental
Israelis love to visit Mount Bental in the Golan Heights when it is covered with snow, but in my opinion, this is the best time of year to visit it. Rising to 1,165 meters above sea level, Mount Bental is located near the Syrian border and, as a result, is of great security and strategic importance for Israel. The IDF base, which is located at the summit and was built on top of an abandoned Syrian post, is a very popular tourist attraction. From the coffee shop, called Coffee Anan, you can look out at the incredible view, and then climb through the old maze of trenches and try to find hidden openings. And if you feel like walking a bit, you can follow the red trail that leads down to the Bental water reservoir.
Directions to Mount Bental: Drive on Route 91 and look for signs for Mount Bental.
Bamat Hasela
From Kibbutz Tzova, there’s a wonderful trail that leads through the kibbutz’s orchards and vineyards and reaches Bamat Hasela. You can either park your car at the Oren factory and walk north toward the orchards, or walk by foot from Tzova on the green trail. After walking for about 15 minutes, you’ll reach an iron gate and the Rabin memorial, where you can hang out in the shade and look out over the incredible view.
After resting for a few minutes, continue until you reach the hidden burial cave near an olive tree. From there, climb up the terraced land until you reach the edge of the cliff, which is where you’ll find Bamat Hasela – an ancient stone quarry that is now a memorial to kibbutz member Nadav Yisraeli, who was killed in Lebanon.
The trail is one kilometer long and takes about 90 minutes to complete.
Manara Cliff
In honor of Israel’s 68th Independence Day, the Manara Cliff will be carrying out guided tours to lookout points in the area that are named after IDF fallen soldiers.
Taking place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Tours are 90 minutes and leave on the hour.
For reservations: www.cliff.co.il or call (04) 690-5830. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.