On the northern most tip of Efrat's Zayit Hill (seven minutes south of Jerusalem), three thousand EZRA youth group members are planting trees across from the Dagan and Tamar Hills. They're participating in a belated Tu B'Shevat activity.
The event was initiated by Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi, together with the education and youth departments of the Moetza. All the preparations in the shetach (hillside) were carried out by Efrat employees, and especially the Efrat Shefa Department.
Right below the spot of their planting, several Efrat administrations promised there would be a man-made lake for all kinds of recreational activities for Efrat's residents.
Well, it's been many years now, and we've still got no lake, but there was a sea of children covering the hill. In the photo at the left, those tiny colored dots are all children - thousands of children. Dressed in a rainbow of colors, representing their shevet (tribe), Ezra members arrived from Raanana, Kfar Shmuel, Elad, Kochav Yaakov, Central Jerusalem, Har Homa (Homat Shmuel), Bet Shemesh, Petach Tikva, Kfar Ganim, everywhere. Some traveled for hours to get here. With gigantic smiles and tremendous gusto, they are all having a fabulous time. But I think I had a bigger chavaya (unforgettable experience) today than they.
I met the first groups at the top of the Zayit, and then marched with them down Pitom HaKetoret Street to the steep sloped northern Zayit Hill. The kids were cheering. They were jumping. They were screaming with enthusiasm and glee. I photographed some and took some video for VoicesTV, http://www.voices-magazine.com/. But, I get emotional at things like this, and I had to try hard to keep laughing with the kids around me, fighting the tears from pouring out of my eyes, at the sight of thousands of children who love Eretz Yisrael and will one day inherit this blessed land.
Sixty buses were lined up all over Efrat after discharging their children, and right now dozens of bus drivers are enjoying ice coffee in Efrat's Angels, pizza in Philly's Pizza and Pizzeria Efrat, as well as bagels in the Bagel Place and burgers at Burgers' Bar.
Meanwhile the kids are planting and singing and dancing and "ooohing" at Efrat's majestic hills. I drove over to the Tamar and then the Dagan to get a look at the "big picture!!" and was able to see Zayit's northern hill transformed into a needlepoint full of colorful dots.
Soon the kids will begin hiking across Efrat's eastern and western edges, all converging on the Gefen Recreation Area for a giant happening.
Most of the children had never been to Efrat before, and they truly believed that their planting trees here connected them to the soil of Eretz Yisrael.
"King David lived around here," I told a group of boys from Kfar Ganim. "We know it," they said. "We've been watching out for souvenirs from his sheep."
VOICES TV uploaded a video of the EZRA Happening up on to our website. You can watch it -http://voices-magazine.com/voices-videos.php?id=102. Thank you to the EZRA Youth Organization and everyone who organized today's event.
Am Yisrael Chai!