The IDF has reached out to Samaria Jews in recent weeks after years in which the relationship between local Jews and the military has been somewhat strained. As part of the IDF effort, this week more than 400 preschoolers from the Samaria region were given tours of a base near Shechem, the IDF website reported.
The children's visit was beneficial to both children and soldiers, said one commander. “The children saw a whole world they hadn't seen before, and the soldiers saw with their own eyes what it is that they're fighting for,” he explained.
Eight stations scattered throughout the base introduced the children, ages 3 to 5, to a variety of military equipment, including pepper spray, robots, and tanks. The children also toured a paintball range and a guard tower - quickly dubbed "the magic cave" - and were given sandwiches, chocolate milk, and cotton candy.
Soldiers gave simple explanations of the equipment on display. "Did anyone here ever taste hot pepper?" asked a policeman as he showed them pepper spray. "Oy," several said, understanding.
Civilian firefighters showed up as well, to show the children how fires are put out.
“What town are you from?” Lieutenant Nissim Levy asked one group of children. When they responded, “Elon Moreh,” he answered, “Oh, Elon Moreh. We see your town all the time. We're watching out from a distance.”
He later told an IDF reporter, “It's not about what they'll remember in another fifteen years when they go to enlist... But this gives them something to connect to; they feel that we're looking out for them.”
“They're very cute,” another soldier said. “They are very shy, but you can tell they're really excited.”
“The children are in heaven,” said Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria Regional Council. “They're on cloud nine, they feel like they're getting a look at the adult world.”
“Yes, we have our disputes with the Defense Ministry,” he added. “But we remain at one with the IDF. I myself am a captain. We served here, our children served here... When the IDF helps evict Jews, sometimes it seems like we're enemies. But when one takes a broader look, it's clear: We are one.”