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By: Fern Sidman

Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI), has announced that their upcoming semi-annual “Chizuk” mission to Israel will be dedicated to the memory of their beloved chairman Herbert Zweibon, Z’L who passed away in January of 2011. The tour will run from May 29th through June 7th.

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”, said Ms. Freedman in a statement to the media.

Coming on the heels of some tense times for Israel is terms of the dramatic foreign policy shift emanating from Washington, the focus of the trip will be the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) and visits to crucial sites in Judea and Samaria. “The Prime Minister of Israel addressed the status of Jerusalem in his speech before the joint sessions of Congress, and we at AFSI are here to reiterate our steadfast support for Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided, and only capital of the Jewish nation” declared Ms. Freedman.

In terms of Israeli retention of settlement blocs in any future peace deal with the Palestinians, Ms. Freedman said, “When we hear the words ‘painful concessions’ spoken by Prime Minister Netanyahu, we know exactly what that translates in to. We are also mindful that the prospect of removing Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria is totally unacceptable and thoroughly intolerable. Based on previous negotiations, we know that the Arabs will never utter those six magical words, “I will accept a Jewish state”. We fervently pray, however, that no more token concessions and “sacrifices for peace” will be necessary to appease the enemy appetite.”

With these sentiments in mind, 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, Hebron and the Hebron 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.

Yom Yerushalayim will be spent in a grand and glorious fashion as tour members partake in an ebullient celebration of the day that Jerusalem was liberated from Arab forces by joining a gala dinner at Beit Orot, while rejoicing with them upon the completion of new apartments for Jews at Shimon HaTzaddik. No AFSI trip to Israel would be complete without a visit to the Temple Mount, and as in previous years, the tour will be led by Rabbi Chaim Richman of The Temple Institute. Having the rare and unique opportunity to celebrate the privilege of being present in Israel’s capital city; this most special day will be enhanced by an enlightening tour of East Jerusalem and the Old City, led by Dan Luria, executive director of Ateret Cohanim.

Providing succor for communities that might be threatened with expulsion also takes precedence in the AFSI itinerary. As such, the tour will proceed to such settlements as Shilo, Chavat Gilad and Itamar, among many others. Heading north, a visit to the mixed city of Carmiel will take place, where many Jews feel that they are under demographic siege by the influx of Arabs into their city. 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.

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