Bereaved Families - Moti Milrod - 25/4/12
Members of bereaved families angered over the gift sent by the Defense Ministry. From the right: Aharon Barnea, Ayelet Harel, Yona Bargur. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Bereaved families are reportedly displeased with the yearly gift sent out for Independence Day and Memorial Day by the Defense Ministry. The fact that this year’s gift, a book entitled: “Trails – Fall in Love with Israel all over again,” includes many trail suggestions in the West Bank, has angered members of bereaved families. Like every year, over 20,000 families received the gift, along with a blessing from Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The book suggests 365 different trails leading to different brooks, springs, and natural pools, over 50 of which are located in the West Bank. Included in the book is a trail leading to the “Meir Spring,” near Migron, as well as dozens of others leading to springs on Palestinian land. Descriptions of such trails include recommendations like “It is suggested to bring a weapon, as the trail is located near an Arab village,” or “near a Bedouin encampment.”

The “Bereaved Families Supporting Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance,” sent a letter on Tuesday, expressing frustration to the Defense Minister. Aharon Barnea, who lost his son at Beaufort in 1999, was involved in writing the letter. “It is horrible that the Defense Ministry sent this book to bereaved families. I see in this book that just like that, areas names’ were changed to names of those killed in terror attacks, as if we are the lords of the land,” said Barnea.

“Really, it’s shocking. We’re changing history, by naming every hill and bush after someone who was killed. How is the Defense Ministry supporting this?” asked Barnea.

The Public Council for Soldier Commemoration is responsible for choosing the yearly gift. The book was chosen among 65 others, before being sent to Barak for approval. Eli Ben Shem, chairperson of the “Yad Labanim” a fallen soldiers' commemoration association and a member of the Public Council, commented on the choice. “We’ve received dozens of letters and phone calls praising the gift. Unfortunately, there are over 23,000 fallen soldiers, and it is always possible that someone will not be satisfied,” said Ben Shem.

The Defense Ministry responded as well. “The book was chosen by the Public Council for Soldier Commemoration, which is comprised of bereaved parents, widows and those who have lost their parents, from all walks of Israeli society. The recommendation is then sent to the Defense Minister,” state a Defense Ministry representative.

Read this article in Hebrew.