U.S. Vice President Joe Biden "will come and go, and we will continue to flourish here in Samaria," regional council head Gershon Mesika told more than 3,000 Israeli children from both religious and secular schools Monday.
The youth hiked through northern Samaria, and organizers provided games and activities for the younger children while older children learned about the region from trained tour guides.
The hike was planned well in advance but happened to take place during the diplomatic crisis between the United States and Israel. U.S. officials have harshly criticized Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in Ramat Shlomo, a historically Jewish neighborhood of northern Jerusalem.
Mesika noted the overlapping events, and said the hike was particularly significant in light of the international pressure on Israel regarding Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. “At this moment, when we face pressure and attempts to weaken us, we create stronger ties to Samaria and to our faith, and we take action,” he said.
Mesika told the young hikers that in 30 years, they can bring their children along the same path. “You can come with them and tell them that when you were children, you hiked here too,” he said.
He took note of the large tracts of land surrounding the hikers. “We've seen this beautiful region, and we see how much empty space there is to build more flourishing towns and to settle all of northern Samaria,” Mesika said. He then asked the youth, “Who wants to build new towns in northern Samaria?” - a question answered by the enthusiastic waving of hands.
The northern Samaria hike was initiated by the Gush Emunim movement, which initiated the renewal of Jewish life in Samaria after the Six-Day War.