Today is our last day in Israel, and we are making sure to enjoy every minute! We had our last gigantic hotel breakfast at Hotel Yearim, loaded the buses and headed off to Har Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery in Jerusalem. Our three soldiers wore their uniforms as per protocol. We started our tour of the cemetery by learning about the branches of the military and the various uniforms.
Our first stop in the very green, hilly, moving cemetery was the grave of Yonaton Netanyahu, killed during the Raid on Entebbe July 4, 1976. We learned that all soldiers who are killed are die during their service years, even in car accidents, have the option to be buried here. All graves are identical in their size and simplicity, regardless of rank of the solder. Ori taught the group that a Supreme Court decision in the 1980s allowed families to begin adding some personal touches to the grave, including verses from the Bible.
We then walked to the Yom Kippur War burial area where we were in for a true treat. We were met by Ami Ganek who told us the fascinating story of his classmate and army buddy, Yoel Gottlieb, a tank commander who was killed during this 1973 war. The story was complex and multi-faceted. Ami and a few friends come to the grave every year on Israel’s Memorial Day and one year found a note from a man named after this Yoel. The friends told him what they know of Yoel and it started a search for even more background info on their friend. A 2017 film, “The Last Gottlieb,” tells this beautiful story.
Our ascent through the cemetery took us to the equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We then walked through the area where Israel’s presidents and prime ministers were buried. Many were fascinated to see the graves of Golda Meir and Yitzhak (and wife, Leah) Rabin. We finished our stay with a visit to the impressive grave of Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism. We learned the story of his life, and we learned of all that he accomplished.
Our final step of the day is Neot Kedudim, a beautiful nature area which is home to all of the plant varieties which grow in Israel. We will have discussions and processing to put the finishing touches on the trip. Those who ordered shirts will receive them, and we will all eat our farewell dinner together. Then, we will head to the airport, where we will stay goodbye to our Israeli friends and to our guide, Ori, and our medic, Ben.
Thanks for a great trip!!