Marching in the Jordan Valley in Memory of Hila Bezaleli
Last Friday (March 8), marchers marked the third annual Jordan Valley March. The event attracted more than 5,000 participants from all over the Israel. Stretching along the country’s eastern border, the Jordan Valley offers tastes of Israel’s variety of landscapes, wildlife and flora.
Last year’s march was postponed twice due to bad weather, and eventually only 1,500 locals participated. This year, the event’s organizers from Jordan Valley’s Regional Council anticipated 4,000 participants, and were pleasantly surprised with a turnout of more than 5,000 members of family, soldiers, locals and students. The Jordan Valley March’s was promoted through a Facebook page that provided information and updates. More than ten buses arrived, carrying spirited high school students from Petach Tikva and Jerusalem. Representatives also arrived from Israel’s Air Industry, who marched with Israeli flags and tambourines. The march attracted secular and religious families alike from all over the country, reflecting the colorful and eclectic communities of the Valley itself.
The route of the march snaked along Israel’s border with neighboring Jordan. Whereas the previous marches had been held strictly on Israel’s side of the fence, the Jordan Valley’s Regional Council received special permission this year to cross into the demilitarized zone between the two countries for the first time since 1967. Consequently, the event was coordinated with Jordanian officials and was secured by both army and police forces.
The march began at 8 am from the Adam Bridge, and the last of the marchers reached the Tirza Reservoir at about 1:30 pm. Rest stops were stationed strategically along the 7 kilometer route, offering shade and refreshments. While resting, the marchers could listen to guides from the Valley as they pointed out various wildlife and landmarks that can be seen along the way, such as the Sartaba and the ruins of the old Allenby Bridge. As they continued walking, marchers could read about the different blossoming communities of the Jordan Valley from posters placed along the route. Upon completing the trek, participants were welcomed with free Bedouin- style teas and refreshments and souvenir stands, and enjoyed live musical performances by popular Israeli singer Amir Benayun and other local musicians.
The first two years of the march were dedicated in the memory of Israel’s beloved Minister of Tourism Rechavam Ze’evi, after whom the Jordan Valley’s main Highway 90 is named.
This year’s march was dedicated to the memory of First Lieutenant Hila Bezaleli, who had served as an IDF officer in the Medical Division of the Jordan Valley’s Brigade until her tragic death 11 months ago. On the morning of Israel’s annual Independence Day ceremony, a faulty light fixture snapped and fell, killing Hila and injuring many others. Hila’s family and friends joined the march this year. Hila’s parents presented performer Amir Benayun with a collage of pictures of Hila to offer their thanks. The soldiers and officers of the Jordan Valley Brigade all marched, donning green shirts with Hila’s picture and above it the words “Marching With You Forever”. Hundreds of soldiers from the IDF’s Medical Unit marched in Hila’s honor as well.