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Some 1,500 Israelis from around the country are set to tour Samaria on Wednesday, Tu Bishvat, as part of a special program organized by Samaria residents to introduce more Israelis to a part of the country they may have been reluctant to visit. The project, sponsored by the Samaria Regional Council, has so far brought thousands of Israelis to the region.

Among those scheduled to visit on the Tu Bishvat tour are heads of the workers committees of some of the largest industrial and service organizations in Israel. In addition, some 600 Likud members, as well as graduates of Israeli youth movements, veterans of pre-state fighting groups such as Irgun, and new immigrants and students from the U.S., England, and France will be visiting as well.

The highlight of the day will be a visit by the group to Itamar, where they will plant over 1,000 trees at the Mishkan Ehud synagogue, which is currently under construction. The synagogue is being built in memory of the Fogel family, five of whose members were killed in Itamar in a terror attack last year. Tu Bishvat the “New Year for Trees” in Jewish tradition, is a popular day for tree-planting in Israel.

Mati Yitzchak is head of the Rosh Ha'ayin chapter of the Likud, and over 100 members of his chapter have signed up for the trip. Yitzchak said that far from fearing to venture into an area that many Israelis are afraid to visit, “we see it as our responsibility and privilege to to build up an area that is so important strategically and geographically.”

Samaria Council head Gershon Mesika said that “we welcome all visitors to Samaria. One of the lessons of the destruction of Gush Katif is that ignorance is the great enemy of settlement. Most Israelis have never been in Judea and Samaria, and incitement against the Jewish towns in the region is only possible because of this ignorance. So far we have conducted over 350 tours for journalists, writers, and politicians in Samaria,” he added.

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