Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Golani Brigade's tree - The legend

Matan Galin..
26 January '13..

Has the Golani Brigade unofficially settled on the true historical location of the "Golani tree", and in doing so brought an end to one of the longest arguments in the IDF's history?

This month, the newest soldiers of the Golani Brigade – recruits from the November 2012 enlistment – received the unit's coveted shoulder tag which displays the famous Golani insignia: a green tree on a yellow background. The symbolic act welcomed the new recruits into the Golani fold, one of the oldest and proudest in the ranks of the IDF. However, no less old is the following question: Which is the original tree represented on the Brigade shoulder tag, and more importantly, where is it located?

New Golani Recruits at induction ceremony. Photo: Tal Manor, IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The botanical argument as to the specific species of tree was recently settled and veterans of the brigade are now less occupied with the question of whether it is an olive tree or an oak. Recently the argument has focused on the location of the tree itself, with a number of locations in the north providing possible answers. Is it on Kibbutz Beit Keshet, at the Golani Brigade Museum site at the Golani Junction, Kiriat Bialik or perhaps Yavniel – the area south west of the Kinneret where the Brigade's Staff was first stationed? Until now the ceremony granting newly inducted soldiers the Golani shoulder tag has been conducted at the Golani Ascent trail, as an inseparable part of the connection between the fighters and Mount Hermon and the alpine combat with which they are associated.

Now, for the first time, the ceremony has been conducted at Yavniel, the Brigade Staff's first home. The day of the ceremony began with a tour in the footsteps of the Brigade's fighters from the 1948 War of Independence – replete with stories of the combat tradition – at whose end, after a short march carrying stretchers, the 600 recruits arrived at the site of the moving ceremony, facing the view of Yavniel and the mighty oak tree – one of the possible original Golani trees.

"Your roots will grow to be as mighty as this tree"

Is the change of location an unofficial declaration by the Brigade's top brass as to the location of the original tree? The Brigade prefers to leave the subject as an open ended argument, but the decision has undoubtedly directed historians who deal with the matter towards Yavniel.

The oak tree at Yavniel

"The place in which you stand today represents the combat and courage of the fighters of the past; it is a special honor, an entrance ticket to a prestigious membership club of the fighters of Golani. This is the time to remember our legacy at Yavniel, the time to recall the roots – where at our feet stands the tree which is the symbol of the unit. We believe that your roots will grow to be as mighty as the roots of this tree. Welcome to Golani," Commander of the Golani Training Base, Lt. Col. Avinoam Stolovich, told the soldiers.

Members of the Golani Brigade operated and trained in the Yavniel region even before the establishment of the state. According to the Yavnieli version, Golani soldiers saw the tree during the course of brigade activity and established it as their emblem. The oak tree at Yavniel almost exactly resembles the one on the brigade tag, including the slightly leftward tending foliage. Yavniel veterans and tour guides in the area swear that it is the original tree of the Golani Brigade.

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