GUSH ETZION, Israel — Hundreds of volunteers from all over Israel teamed up over the past few weeks to build a new Jewish cultural center in Gush Etzion, about 100 yards away from where three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists one month ago.
Led by the efforts of the Women in Green, a patriotic grassroots organization dedicated to the “ideal of Greater Israel,” Israeli men, women, and children from cities as far away as Petach Tikva and Tel Aviv helped transform a barren, rock-filled embankment on the corner of Gush Etzion Junction into a place called Giv’at Oz V’Gaon, where families from all over Israel can picnic, camp out, celebrate birthdays, and eventually, visit a planned coffee shop.
The “V’Gaon” part of the site’s name is an acronym for Gilad, Ayal, and Naftali, the three Israeli teenagers who were on their way home from school when they were abducted and murdered by terrorists. The Women in Green began clearing out the site for the cultural center the night they learned the boys had been killed.
“We came here to cherish life, and building, and optimism,” Women in Green co-chair Nadia Matar told Breitbart News. “This is our land. We are not going to be scared. We are going to live, we are going to expand, we’re going to turn this beautiful forest into a beautiful tourist area, and we’re going to have Jewish life… We will not be broken.”
During a tour of the site on Friday, young children could be seen helping their parents clear rocks with hoes and shovels, delineating walkways and parking spaces. A carpenter donated about 20 hand-built wooden picnic tables for the site. A makeshift gazebo was newly-finished, and a dining tent erected. The plots for three terraced gardens, one each in memory of the teens, were dug out and planted.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Matar said. “People come from all over the country to be part of this. Youth and adults work and clean and live here, all together in unity. Religious, not-religious; new immigrants, and people who were born here.”
“Unfortunately, we still have a government that is not strong enough and doesn’t allow us yet to build new communities,” she continued, lamenting the fact that volunteers have so far had to sleep in tents on site while building the tourist area.
Still, Matar sounded relatively upbeat as preparations continued for the Shloshim, or 30-day memorial service, for the three Israeli teens.
“We’re going to basically hug the families, and show unity and love to the land of Israel, the people of Israel, and our heritage.”