Hikers Return to Trails in Judea and Samaria

Israelis continue to hike and tour the hills, valleys, forests and natural springs of Judea and Samaria despite the threat of terror attacks. Dozens of tours are set for the upcoming Pesach holiday.

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Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 11:38

More than a thousand youth from B'nei Akiva chapters from northern Israel and the Haifa area traveled to Gush Etzion Sunday to hike the various trails in the region.

Organizers say that the hike is the largest since the outbreak of the Oslo War in September, 2000. They added that registration for the Gush Etzion trip was much higher than in recent years, when hikes had taken place mostly in the Golan Heights and the Negev.

The administration of the Kfar Etzion Field School expressed satisfaction with the large number of hikers – something they say is encouraging others to take part in such activities. Several hikes and day-trips around the Gush Etzion region are planned for over the Pesach holiday – and are open to the public. Organized hikes are being offered to Wadi Kelt, Hevron, the Herodion (in eastern Gush Etzion) and Tekoa. Daily tours of the Hariton Cave, the Herodion, the Cave of the Patriarchs and the natural springs along the Ein Hovila route will also take place.

On Monday April 17, an intermediate day of the Passover festival, the Samaria Tourism Association will provide guided tours of the Ancient Samaria National Park in Sebastia.

In the past, Sebastia had around 40,000 visitors a year, but it has been closed to visitors since the start of the Oslo War. In the interim, the IDF carried out occasional surveys of the site – uncovering, in recent years, illegal building, unauthorized Arab burial at the site and repeated robbery of antiquities from the ancient archeological areas by thieves.

In the past six months, the site was opened to Jewish visitors several times, allowing more than 2,000 visitors. A Jewish wedding ceremony was even held in Sebastia last week.

On Friday, April 14 – an intermediate day of Passover in Israel – the youth of the town of Kedumum have organized a march from the hitchhiking post in Karnei Shomron to Kedumim – the site where four people were murdered by an Arab terrorist two weeks ago.

"We will fearlessly express out faith in G-d and in the continuation of the process of the redemption – which proceeds with confident steps despite crises and falls," organizers said of the planned march along a route that has seen many murdered by Arab terrorists over the years. "We wish to radiate the fact that we are not losing hope and we are not despairing in the slightest. We will raise our heads and say with pride: 'We will not be frightened by either the Arab enemy or those who seek to weaken us from within.' We will declare loudly: 'Our spirit is steadfast and proud!' We are continuing and expanding."

At the conclusion of the march a ceremony will take place at the site of the murder.

On Sunday April 16, in the Binyamin region north of Jerusalem, a protest march is planned against the damage to the Land of Israel and to the fabric of normal life of residents of the region. The march will leave from Beit El toward Dolev and Talmonim; simultaneously marchers will leave from Dolev toward Beit El.

The route is between five and six hours by foot, though motorists and cyclists are welcome as well.

"We intend to protest the cutting off of the Beit El and Binyamin region from the Modi'in area," organizers say. Residents complain that the construction of the Jerusalem-area Partition Wall and the closure of the Atarot road and industrial area to Jews forces residents to travel far out of their way – harming not only quality of life, but livelihood.

"Against the current flow of surrender, restrictions, closures and checkpoints we will take to the open fields – strengthening the outposts and marching and traveling to every place in the Land of Israel," organizers declare on posters posted around Israel. "Instead of destruction will come expansion as well travel on the thoroughfares of our forefathers."