On Sunday, October 22, I went with my husband to the heart of the country, the Golan Heights.
In my opinion the northern part of Israel, the Golan Heights in particular, is where the heart is at.
Avigdor Kahalani had invited my husband and me to an event that he was basically leading, that would go on for a week. I had no idea what to expect at, “The Footsteps of the Fighters.” I only heard from Avigdor that there would be a great deal of seniors arriving from high schools around Israel attending this event. Kahalani would be the guest speaker and he was also the creator of the annual event that attracts approximately 40,000 people.
As we approached the Golan Heights I felt excitement as I usually do. The beauty one captures when winding through the landscape is powerful as that land holds so much significance. At the moment of arrival to the location of the event you see an impactful view and there within walking distance at the backdrop is our neighbor, Syria.
Avigdor Kahalani was perched high on a chair facing and surrounded by hundreds of kids that were bussed up to the event. Everyone was seated on the rocky seating in a circular area of a hill in Emek HaBakha, and the sun was shining bright. Kahalani was there to speak, the topic inclusive of the wars he was in, with the intention to boost morale of these seniors before enlisting. He was there to also convey the vital importance of the Israeli army.
The way he described his time of service and as a high officer through the wars was very personal and quite intriguing and obviously impressive. His message was clear and he minced no words. He was honest as he described his first near death experience when he was burned over 60 percent of his body and the agony of it was brutal. He shared how he was speechless the moment his body was burning and could only scream out one word: IMA!!!
Avigdor went on to tell of another near death moment when he was face to face with the Syrian tank and their cannon was literally in front of him as he sat high in his Israeli tank and so was the actual face of the enemy. He told of how he managed to kill all the enemy tanks that faced him although he had been left with no Israeli tanks by his side. Kahalani shared with these future Israeli soldiers how he lost his brother Emanuel, and his brother in law Ilan, at the same time over the Yom Kippur War. His brother Emanuel had been very newly married just before the war. His brother in law Ilan, left behind a pregnant wife. The point of all this was to emphasize what it took to have the land of Israel.
Avigdor’s stories could be identified with, unfortunately by too many in Israel. And after all these life changing and intense experiences the result is that these kids have a Jewish land of their own. This is a land that Avigdor and his generation will one day have to leave it ALL in their hands. He told them firmly and almost pleadingly that he expects them to take care of his country Israel. He went on to impress upon them the magnitude of what that means, when Avigdor held up the flag of Israel and showed them how strong he gripped the pole of the flag not to allow it to ever fall. He asked the crowd to promise to take good care of the Israeli flag and to be sure to have it always standing up strong above the land. Not to allow anyone to take it away or to trash it like we see taking place around the world today. He then asked them to scream out in unison, as one, that they agreed to this favor, to promise and take on this serious obligation. And they did.
The day went on to impress anyone that attended. The event continued in Katsarin with a grand finale exhibiting the army’s various units. One could meet the soldiers and engage in seeing on display the ammunition and many tanks, which allowed the students to climb in and get a sense of it all. The attitude was fantastic, as the soldiers greeted everyone with a smile and with true friendliness. They were there to show off their stuff and answer questions too. Overall, the atmosphere was filled with warmth and pride from the people attending and from the people participating. When the finale began and everyone had risen from their seat on the ground to sing Hatikvah, the scene was a beautiful one indeed. Chilling and emotional to say the least. The entertainment was filled with the army choirs singing and getting the crowd involved to sing a long and get up on their feet and dance. The culmination to the event was a display and actual exercise from the army tank units and the Golani soldiers showing how they operate when confronted with the enemy. The crowd was pumped up instantly and applauded their protectors, these young men serving them in the Israeli army.
The humbleness of Avigdor Kahalani is impressive, given the fact that typically one does not meet an Iconic figure on any realm,as he is, who is actually a truly humble person. He would speak with all his strength to thousands of people this week, telling and re telling the story of the land and the wars that he and so many Israelis have fought for. The energy needed to tell these stories is tremendous. The motivation and passion that Kahalani exemplifies is hopefully contagious, in addition to his level of intelligence, clear thinking and stability too. His enthusiasm is undeniably bold and profound. The love and pride for the land of Israel is evident as is the courage and the strength that Avigdor conveys to the crowd with the intention to pass it all on to them.
The hope is that from such an event and display that is offered up on the Golan Heights everyone can learn a lot. The results to be gained is that the next generation will be at least as loyal and conscious of what it takes to protect Israel. The hope is that there will be many generations to come in Israel that will be filled with courage and knowledge in order to preserve the paths that are engraved in the land of Israel, just so the Jewish people can have a home of their own.