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      Americans For a Safe Israel Tour & Strengthen the Jews of Israel

      Arutz Sheva TV speaks with Helen Freedman, Exec. Dir. of "Americans For A Safe Israel", a group currently on a strengthening mission in Israel.
      By Elad Benari, Fern Sidman & Yoni Kempinski
      First Publish: 6/3/2011, 5:48 AM / Last Update: 6/3/2011, 11:20 AM

      Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI) is holding its semi-annual “Chizuk” (strength) mission to Israel this week.

      INN TV met AFSI executive director Helen Freedman in the Samaria community of Itamar on Thursday, shortly after the group visited the outpost of Alei Ayin which was destroyed that same morning.

      “We planned our itinerary to go to Alei Ayin in the Shilo bloc because we like going to the outposts,” said Freedman. “Our whole idea is to go to the threatened areas. This is not geared to just be the casual tour of Israel. This itinerary is planned to go to the threatened and endangered areas in Israel.”

      She added that by “threatened and endangered” she means “not so much threatened by the Arabs, but very much so by the Israeli government policies which seem to be very anti-Jewish in many ways.”

      Alei Ayin, explained Freedman, was on the schedule for Thursday and as the group members made their way there, they heard of the violent demolition that occurred there at approximately 4am.

      “What we saw as we looked around us was just rubble,” she said. “The people, though, are so strong and committed to rebuilding. Of course, we committed ourselves also to spread the word and to tell people that this is the land of Israel. This is our holy land. This is a biblical promise.”

      The interview with Freedman took place just outside the home in Itamar of the Fogel family, five members of which were brutally killed by Arab terrorists who infiltrated their home in March. She mentioned the countless attacks on Itamar by the residents of the nearby Arab village of Awarta.

      “For some reason Awarta is thriving and growing,” said Freedman. “I’m sure that Israeli forces could thwart these attacks, and I don’t know why they’re allowed to continue.

      “We love this land,” Freedman emphasized. “Even though we do criticize the government, our feeling of love and support and strength for the land of Israel just grows with every trip that we take. Two-thirds of the people who travel with me are people who have been with me before. They come again and again because we form very close ties with the people.”

      She noted that the strengthening goes both ways.

      “We get so much strength from these people who are so amazing,” she said. “We can’t take more pride than we do from the fact that they do not give up. We have experienced so much with these people and we’ve come to love them so much. We feel that if they can put so much of their heart and soul to preserve this land, we certainly just have to give them chizuk.”

      The mission, which will run until Tuesday, will be dedicated to the memory of AFSI's beloved chairman, Herbert Zweibon z”l, who passed away in January of 2011.

      Having founded AFSI in 1970 out of a deep concern for the future of Israel, Mr. Zweibon is best remembered for his generosity, kindness and tireless devotion to the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

      “Herb was the heart and soul of our organization and a stalwart advocate for the rights of Jews to live anywhere in the land of Israel. The most fitting tribute we could pay to this exemplary “Ohev Yisroel” (lover of the Jewish people) is to dedicate our Spring Chizuk mission to his extraordinary life and legacy,” Freedman in a statement to the media.

      The participants in the AFSI Spring Chizuk mission will be visiting the former residents of Gush Katif, now living new communities in the southern part of Israel. In addition, a very special visit will be paid to the beleaguered town of Sderot where a new soccer field has been built with contributions from AFSI members. Under the guidance of Israel Danziger of Mishmeret Yesha, the tour members will also be visiting the residents of Gush Etzion, Hevron and the Hevron Hills. It is there that the AFSI members will get some hands-on training in rifle practice under the tutelage of the Mishmeret Yesha rapid response team.

      In addition to visiting communities such as Shilo, Chavat Gilad and Itamar, among many others, the members will visit the mixed city of Carmiel in northern Israel. Trips to Haifa, Tzfat, Kiryat Shemona, the Golan Heights and such locations in the Jordan Valley as Hemdat, Maskiot, Massua and Mevo'ot Yericho are also planned. The tour members will also engage as active participants in meetings with prominent personalities in the settlement movement.  Among them are: Professor Steven Plaut of the University of Haifa, Rabbi Adam Kennisberg of the Yeshivat Hesder in Akko, Nadia Matar, MK Effie Eitam, Aharon Pulver of the Israel Independence Fund, Sephy Choter and Ramona Bar-Lev, wife of Sami Bar-Lev, the mayor of Katzrin.