BY LYDIA AISENBERG
AN Israeli Orthodox mother and her two children avidly pay attention to a soldier guiding them around a memorial dedicated to more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the IDF Nahal Corps.
It is Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s national day of mourning for the almost 24,000 men, women and children who died either serving in the armed forces or in acts of terror.
The Nahal Memorial is situated in the central Israeli town of Pardes Hanna and the fresh-faced guide is serving his three-year national service in the Nahal Corps.
The teenage soldier explains that Nahal was founded during the 1948 War of Independence, originally a battalion of the Gadna.
However, after that war the Israeli army high command gave an order for Nahal to become an independent corps of the IDF.
Soldiers serving in Nahal were in the main drawn from pioneering youth movements as the Nahal military service combined both agricultural/settlement training and military, leading to Nahal being nicknamed for many years the “farming army”.
In the 1950s, Nahal established what were to later become kibbutzim along the border with Gaza, the 1951 settled Nahal Oz — a Gaza border kibbutz constantly in the news — being the first.
Kibbutz Gonen, across the River Jordan from the Jordanian-Syrian borders with Israel where the Golan Heights slopes peter down into the rift between the Golan range and the beginning of the Jordanian Gilead mountains, is also a Nahal-founded kibbutz as in Yotvata near Eilat.
What had been, for many years, a small Nahal base metres away from the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line) near the kibbutzim of Barkai, Maanit and Metzer in central Israel, was eventually vacated in the late 1990s and is today a thriving community of modern Orthodox families, who have named their community Mitzpeh Ilan after the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.
In all, Nahal’s pioneering youthful fighters and farmers created more than 100 mostly agricultural communities throughout Israel as well as contributing enormously to the absorption of waves of new immigrants.
Nahal soldiers were trained as teachers of the Hebrew language and apart from helping bewildered newcomers learn Hebrew, Nahal soldier educators were involved in organising school activities for children struggling to cope with their new surroundings, and were also in the forefront of heading educational programmes for young Israelis living in underdeveloped regions of the country.
The Memorial to the Fallen Nahal Soldiers includes an impressive, enormous concrete tower, split wide open on one side, at the base of which the names of the fallen are inscribed on a circular wall.
On either side of the plaques, behind glass panels, drops of water drip slowly down, representing the tears shed over the loss of so many Nahal soldiers who also served as medics and in other sectors of the IDF.
The layout of the Pardes Hanna Nahal memorial is based on the brigades insignia, the scythe and sword. A memorial hall, study rooms and synagogue, are connected to the tower by a bridge, the view from which incorporates the large park surrounding the memorial and overlooks an open amphitheater at its base.
Inside the memorial hall are areas for holding seminars for newly-recruited Nahal soldiers and groups of high-school students who spend time not only learning about those who are commemorated at the site, but also undertake field activities in the park, create an army camp, cook for themselves and sleep out in the open.
More than 1,000 drawers hold photographs and other memorabila of the fallen soldiers, all of which open to perusal by family members and visitors to the site.
ISRAELI ambassador Mark Regev helped to launch El Al’s new Manchester to Tel Aviv route at a special Eurovision-themed party at Manchester's National Football Museum on Wednesday night. The route launches on Sunday, May 26, with three regular flights, although it is rumoured to be going to two services from October. The event was hosted and organised by Manchester Airport, and featured a Eurovision tribute act.
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