Each year as Yom Ha’atzmaut Israel’s Independence Day approaches I am filled with nostalgic and yearning memories of years past. It is hard to believe that over five decades have passed since I served in the IDF in the Special Unit NACHAL.
It was exactly November 29,1962 when our unit ascended to Mount Gilboa and broke ground to a new Military/JNF settlement on top the Hill 500, the highest hill looking over Jordanian territory.
“MA’ALE GILBOA” was given the name to our small and unprotected settlement overlooking the Valley of Beit Sh’an in the lower Galilee on the Israeli side, and observing two Arab Palestinian villages “Fakua” and “Jalabun” leading to the city of “Jenin” in Jordan.
Our unit, the first to settle on a bare mountain, was given two tasks. Planting trees (150) each day on the mountain which was covered with arid stones and no vegetation. The other, a security task to keep the boarder safe from infiltrators and possible terrorist attacks. This period guarding and serving in the IDF was the highlight of my life.
Living there with my childhood friends, boys and girls from the B’nei Akiva Youth Movement, now my comrades, I felt a sense of belonging and serving my country with honour and living the reality of the Zionist dream.. This was by far the most romantic, nostalgic period that I relive every Yom Ha’atzmaut. Over the years we have kept in touch and have gathered for reunions many times to relive those moments we cannot forget. Each of us kept a private collection of photos from those days. Looking at the pictures now more than five decades later has special emotional meaning. I want to share some of those with you.
You can see some dignitaries who came to greet us at the opening ceremony on November 29, 1962. Among them the military Rabbi of the IDF and a very young Shimon Peres.
A handsome young Yitzhak Rabin who was second in command to the Chief of Staff. Knesset member, Avraham Burg placing the Mezuzah on the door where the Synagogue was to be. The Chief Commander of our Nacahal unit, Shmuel Eyal.
Marching along with a Chuppah on rifled bayonet on the left is a young Beny Maissner. I was so proud to carry and escort a Torah into our new home.
I have missed my friends and those days throughout my life, but I hope I bring to my beloved calling as your Hazzan some of those qualities I cherish, the love for my homeland Israel. I am happy to share these reflections and archival photos with you.
Chag Ha’atzmaut Sameach