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פדויי השבי חונכים את יער הפדויים והשבויים

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
[email protected]


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 Rabin High 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, who was 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 Lebanese War.  “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.”

Captions: Top - Yaakov Danino, JNF-KKL projects director for the northern region, stands in front of the monument that he designed and built.
Middle - (L-R) Former prisoners of war Moshe Hassan, Rahamim Habri, Ovadia Gavriel, and Koblin Surin.

Bottom - Students from Rabin High School in Modi'in pose in front of the memorial.   

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Jewish National Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 1901 to serve as caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners—Jewish people everywhere. Over the past century, JNF has planted over 240 million trees, built over 180 reservoirs and dams, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 1,000 parks, provided the infrastructure for 1,000 communities and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment. Today, JNF is restoring northern Israel, making it home again to its residents, and is putting its century of experience to work with Blueprint Negev, supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers in developing the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier.  For more information on JNF or to plant trees in Israel, call 800-542-TREE (8733) or visit www.jnf.org/trees.  To contact your local office, please call 888-JNF-0099 or visit http://www.jnf.org/.