“Encounters on the Israel Trail” is an experiential, journey of remembrance, renewal, and dialogue along the trails of Israel. Its goal is to create encounters and lead discussions about pressing issues in Israeli society from a pluralistic approach that enables participants to learn, listen, express, inspire, learn diverse perspectives, and find what unifies us.
Encounters on the Israel Trail` was established by the Avi Association in memory of Staff Sergeant Avi Ofner and 72 of his comrades who fell on February 4, 1997 in a helicopter disaster on their way to operational activity in Lebanon. The project took place for the first time in 2002. Since then, every year hundreds of hikers, volunteers, bereaved families, youth movements, pre-army programs, and the general public participate in the journey. The purpose of Encounters on the Israel Trail is to take part in a project that combines walking across the landscapes of Israel, addressing the profound issues of Israeli society, its culture and heritage while acknowledging differences and highlighting unifying aspects.
The understanding that the victims of the helicopter disaster represented a broad spectrum of Israeli society prompted the Ofner family to initiate this commemorative project. They envisioned creating a non-political journey that belongs to everyone, bringing together various segments of the population around a common denominator. Today, the journey has expanded, commemorating all fallen individuals in the IDF.
In 2022, the Ofner family and Hannaton Educational Center came together to operate the project jointly. The Hannaton Educational Center was chosen as the professional and educational home for the 'Encounters on the Israel Trail' program, with the goal to expand the program, deepen its impact on Israeli society, and ensure the fulfillment of its vision.
This year the journey will serve as an anchor of hope and healing, as a sign of reaching out to the many communities that were evacuated from their homes when the war broke out, many after much suffering and terrible destruction. At the heart of the program will be the question of how to rebuild Israeli society together as a value-oriented and reformed society worthy of the values left by the fallen soldiers and the victims of the terrible disaster that befell us on October 7.
We will march with the men and women of the communities from the kibbutzim, moshavim, and cities that were evacuated and/or damaged, together with the general public in memory of the fallen and murdered, for the communities, for the hostages, and for our future.
The 2024 Encounters on the Israel Trail will take place in accordance with the security situation and the directives of the Home Front Command, without accommodations in the field but with options in appropriate places in localities or in KKL-JNF field and forest centers. The routes have been adapted to safe areas.
Departure time between 6:30-7:00 daily. Check in with the Encounters web site daily for precise information.
End time: 16:00 (4:00 pm) – 17:00 (5:00 pm) daily. On Fridays, we will end at least three hours before Shabbat begins.
"This is my second year participating in 'Encounters on the Israel Trail. As a Zionist who came from the United States about five years ago, sometimes I need these moments to remind me why I'm here, and 'Encounters on the Israel Trail "is one of those for me. It's proof to me that Zionism is still alive in the country, and there are still people who understand the values on which the state was founded".
"Suddenly, we take a stop for a discussion that seems strange and unrelated. What do I have to do with philosophical discussions with people I don't know, from ages 8 to 80, from sectors of our society with whom I have no conversation and, above all, no desire or need to converse? What can I say? How strange but fascinating, making me think, get to know them, and feel closer to them. It’s a true rapprochement of hearts, not just speaking about something, but during the course of the conversation itself something happens—the partitions fall revealing wonderful people with values and compassion, who, at least, from the perspective of a Tel Avivian, I was sure were long gone from this world".
"After the first trail that I walked, my eyes were opened, and I continued on journey of deep searching, often not easy, towards my identity. Everything I have done since then has been inspired by the trail, drawing strength from the space that the journey revealed before me, where I can simply be me and search clearly. Thank you for allowing me to feel today the pain of others who are part of me, and I am part of them, and we are part of the same great and immense whole called the people of Israel. I see the path that you began to pave and continue to develop as Tikun Olam --a rectification of the world-- exactly that, without feeling an iota of exaggeration".
"I tend to compare the connection between me and the country to a relationship between a man and a woman. Just as couples do things together that strengthen their bond, so my country and I need a joint activity that will strengthen us. Personally, I had some kind of crisis with my partner--the land of Israel-- in recent times, and this journey was the 'couples therapy workshop' for me. It was just the right thing and the right time to do it. A successful journey never ends - the kilometers do. But time remains etched within you - it becomes a part of you. At the end of the journey, I don't feel victorious, but rather more grateful--as if the journey went through me and not me through it. So thank you very much for the incredible experience, and we’ll see you on the trails".
For registration for 'Encounters on the Israel Trail': https://www.avi-beshvil-israel.org.il/