The defense minister took part in the last day of the "In the footsteps of fighters" project, which has taken high school students to battle sites and meetings with representatives of the Israel Defense Forces' various corps, who presented them with the options for joining combat service in the sea, air and land.
Addressing the security situation, Barak said, "There are not only friends around us, but also enemies. We are constantly developing in terms of defense, and fighting whenever needed. We have been in a series of wars since the War of Independence to the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead.
"Israel is not hesitating and is doing all it can to make peace, and peace cannot be made in the Middle East if you don’t have the strongest army. As the left door opens every door in search of peace, the right hand is on the trigger, ready for any option at any given moment."
Barak with Upper Galilee Council head (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
He turned to the youth and said, "There is no liberty for the people without having someone to protect it. Any country seeking life must have the youths' readiness to enlist to the systems supporting the fighting and to the front's units, knowing that there is a danger and that they may lose their lives while defending the land and homeland."
The defense minister told the students about a tour he held at the Hermon area, where he also met women fighters placed in important roles. He noted that today, more than in the past, female recruits have key roles they can fit into.
'Meeting gave us hope'
The event was also attended by Brigadier General (Res.) Avigdor Kahalani and Colonel (Res.) Amikam Svirsky, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, who organized the project together with the Education Corps and the 36th Division.
The youths themselves were motivated by the project. Adi Zaken of Hadera, a 12th grader, said, "Many of us come with a bad impression from the Second Lebanon War, but when we come here we see the achievements of Operation Cast Lead and the lessons learned by the IDF. This gives us hope that during our service we can continue contributing and defending the State."
Lieutenant Moshiko, an officer in the Armored Division, spoke about the meeting with the youth. "I understand how important it is to bring them closer to heritage stories, to presentations, to tanks and to the rest of the things related to the army."
Lieutenant Lihi Bernstein, an information officer in the Artillery Corps, said she was very happy "to see so many female 12th graders who want to join the fighting units."
Brigadier-General Alon Friedman of the Northern Command summarized the project by saying that "our youth understand the IDF's role in the State of Israel and 'In the footsteps of fighters' is our real way to show them just how much the IDF is an army which can give the citizens of the State of Israel the best defense. At the end of the day, these soldiers are guarding them own homes and families."
'9 years of calm'
Before meeting with the students, Barak toured IDF posts on the northern border and Upper Galilee communities, where he met with council heads and public representatives in the Upper Galilee Regional Council.
"What we have now is nine years of calm after dozens of years of fire, and these nine years were also stopped for a few painful weeks of the Second Lebanon War," the defense minister said. "I hope and believe that we will be able to continue this calm, but I am also telling you that we are preparing for other possibilities which may put the authorities on a new test."
Upper Galilee Regional Council head Aharon Valency asked Barak to ensure that the government continues its financial backing of the northern communities, stressing the importance of the border fence's maintenance and the guarding of the communities.