JNF-KKL and Erim Balaila Dedicate Memorial to Israel’s Prisoners of War and Missing Soldiers
Contact: Sarit Schonbrun • JNF Communications Manager • 212-879-9305 ext. 222 • firstname.lastname@example.org
April 24, 2007 -- Modi'in, Israel -- On Friday, April 20, Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF-KKL) and Erim Balaila (Awake at Night), the Association of Israeli POW veterans, dedicated a memorial in honor of Israeli prisoners of war and missing soldiers.
The monument, which stands in the Israeli Prisoners of War & Missing Soldiers Forest in Modi’in, is comprised of four large stones representing the main fronts of Israel’s battles -- Galilean stone for Lebanon, basalt for Syria, granite for Egypt, and Hebron stone for Jordan -- with a metal grid symbolizing captivity.
JNF-KKL has planted around 3,000 trees in the surrounding forest, which will be cared for and protected by student volunteers from the RabinHigh School in Modi’in.
Dozens of members of Erim Balalia and their families gathered for a moving dedication ceremony during which they shared their experiences as prisoners of war.
“I was a POW for nine months, four of which I spent in solitary confinement,” said Koblin Surin, whowas held captive by Syria during the Yom Kippur War. “I was tortured -- electric shocks and beaten on the soles of my feet with a rod. Whenever I am alone, the terrible feelings come up again. Two months ago, my son was wounded during his military service, and my experiences from when I was in captivity came right back, as if thirty years hadn’t passed since then.”
“The released POWs did indeed come home, but deep inside, they will never be totally freed from what they went through,” said Yaakov Danino, the memorial’s designer and JNF-KKL projects director for the northern region, who was held captive by Egypt during the Yom Kippur War. “That is really what I was trying to express with this monument. I guess we’ll just have to live with it forever.”
Among the day’s speakers was Tzvi Regev, father of Eldad Regev, one of the soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah last July. “Nine months have passed since Eldad was captured and we have not even received a sign of life,” said Regev. “We sent him a letter and a Bible, but we have no idea if he even received them. We are all praying constantly that they all come home.”
Also in attendance was a group of students from Rabin High School who volunteered to document the personal stories of the released POWs. Their recordings will soon be published.
“The meetings were amazing," said 10th grader Asaf Yungman. "It was a real experience to hear these heroic stories. They were a source of encouragement before we, ourselves, enlist in the army.”
The volunteer project was initiated by Tali Gruff, a teacher at the Rabin School whose husband Yoske was held captive by Syria during the first LebaneseWar. “I wanted the teenagers to take something with them from these meetings,” she said. “I do not want them to take for granted the fact that they are here in Israel. I want them to appreciate what we have and to remember that there is always hope, even in the most difficult of moments. No one can transmit this message better than the former POWs.”
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
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