“It was a clear, starry night of such pastoral tranquility that it was difficult for me to imagine that a fierce and bloody war was raging.” So mused Yehuda Lapidot, who joined the Irgun at age 15 and served as company commander during the Battle of Ramat Rachel in the 1948 War of Independence. Atop a hill with panoramic views of the Bethlehem to Jerusalem road, just south of the Olive Columns Park, are historic ruins of 72 year-old bunkers designed to defend this strategically important site.
Today, shepherds herd their sheep around the Olive Column sculpture, built as a symbol of peaceful co-existence on this bucolic site situated between Tzur Baher and Arnona. So, it is also difficult to imagine the fact that the bunkers and the surrounding areas have been strewn with decades of trash. The hardened plastic bottles, crushed soda cans and empty cigarette packs are an undignified “memorial” for the soldiers, half of whom were wounded, who successfully defended the site that secured the southern access to Jerusalem.
With this in mind, the Jerusalem Green Fund established the Bike Brigade to clean the litter that ignominiously mars many of the historic and military sites throughout Israel, as well as neighborhoods and highways. This past Friday the newly formed Brigade participated with over 90 groups in a nationwide pre-Pesach cleanup coordinated by “Cleaning the Home.” Our six riders rode to the Jerusalem site, ascended the mount and attacked the trash with militant fervor. Ninety minutes later the battle was over with our successfully filling ‘chai’, or eighteen, large bags of trash. An electric mountain bike with a trailer served as the ‘Zion Mule Corp’ to tote the bags to the awaiting SUV that transported them to the dumpster.
The guiding vision of “Cleaning the Home” is that cleaning one’s home for Pesach should extend to cleaning Eretz Yisroel, since this Land is our people's home. The task may lack glamour on the surface, but our group took special pride in the deeper, symbolic significance of not only adding to the purity of the holy Jerusalem, but also elevating a memorial site.
We invite you to join our Bike Battalion, form your own or, for those that don’t bike, establish an infantry group that can attack on foot one of the many eyesores that blemish our beloved Land.
As we thankfully emerge with God’s help from the pandemic, let’s work to create a post corona culture of clean that elevates the physical habitat so it reflects the spiritual level of the Promised Land.
Reuven Schwartz, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, scientist and author who made Aliyah 6 years ago and has served as chair of the Jerusalem Green Fund Cleanup Committee.: email@example.com