When their plane touches down at Ben Gurion airport Monday, the members of Americans For a Safe Israel will have marked the beginning of their 30th "chizuk" mission to strengthen Israel.
"We are thrilled to mark this special anniversary with what promises to be one of our most outstanding programs ever", said Helen Freedman, executive director of AFSI.
AFSI was founded in 1970 as an American counterpart to the Land of Israel Movement, which asserted Israel’s right—historic, religious and legal-- to the land that was restored to Israel from Jordanian control in the Six-Day War in 1967.
AFSI has argued consistently that a strong territorially defensible Israel is essential to U.S. security interests in the region and that “land for peace” is a delusional policy. AFSI plays a significant role as a major political support group for the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and the Golan and supports the right of Israelis, free from outside interference, to live, thrive and expand their communities in all of the Land of Israel.
The AFSI tour will cover several of the communities that are home to victims of the 2005 expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. AFSI members will visit the Be’er Ganim Project in Nitzanim, the Katif Center, the new communities of Nitzan, B’nei Dekalim, Amatzia and Neta in order to provide support to those living there.
They will also be touring the Halutzah region to visit Bnei Netzarim and Naveh, where former Gush Katif residents are building new homes .Israel Danziger of Mishmeret Yesha will join the tour and provide crucial information and resource material on each settlement.
The tour will include the beleaguered town of Sderot, where tour members will meet with Alon Davidi of Ofek Chadash, Noam Bedein, Josh Hasten and Rabbi David Fendel at the Hesder Yeshiva.
"One of the organizations that we are so incredibly proud to meet and to pledge our support to are the Shomrim Chadashim, (the new Israeli guardsmen), who are down in the Negev volunteering their time to guard Jewish farm land and farmers from attacks by Bedouin land grabbers", said Freedman.
Bedouin and Israel Arabs in the Negev and the Galilee have seized hundreds of thousands of acres of state land, where they have built more than 150,000 illegal homes without permits. A State Comptroller and Ombudsman’s report labeled the land grab a “national scourge.”
Also joining the AFSI tour will be Aharon Pulver of the Israel Independence Fund (IIF), a non-political, philanthropic organization that dedicates itself to securing and organizing the necessary financial support for projects and institutions that serve as an important vehicle in the revival of the Zionist spirit in Israel.
The highlight of the AFSI tour will be on Shabbat ‘Parshat Chayei Sarah” in Hevron. The Torah portion begins with the purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs by Abraham.
A leading rabbi will host the group Friday night and a speaker from the Honenu legal rights group will speak.
The conclusion of the AFSI trip will be spent in Jerusalem, where tour members will visit the Temple Mount with Rabbi Chaim Richman. Aryeh King will lead a unique tour of Jerusalem's threatened areas and Dan Luria of Ateret Kohanim in the Old City and Beit Yehonatan will lead a tour of Kidmat Zion and other areas outside the Old City.
"It is our fervent hope and prayer that once again AFSI members can gain a more cogent understanding of the tragic realities facing our people in Israel and work to encourage, strengthen and support our brothers and sisters while fostering a deep and long lasting relationship", said Freedman.