Mickey Bar-Neder’s profession as a tour guide allows him the privilege of traveling the breadth of his glorious land, educating people with hands-on-lessons about Israel’s history, geography and archeology. This summer, Mickey led a Birthright tour, a discovery program designed to allow Jewish students and young adults who have never been to Israel, to connect with their Jewish identity… to allow the younger generation to see Israel as a normal, vibrant country. Mickey is thrilled for opportunities just like this one, but finds it frustrating when Birthright, like so many tourist agencies, hesitates to bring its tours to Judea and Samaria, diplomatically hiding behind safety issues. “The people of Biblical Israel are exactly the people visitors need to see, because they are the ones connected to the land… the ones building the land.”
Christian tourists, though, understand this. “They want to see where the rebirth of the nation is happening… how we are turning barren hilltops into thriving communities.” Mickey loves working with them and enjoys working with Sondra Baras and CFOIC Heartland. “The Christians are true believers and I feel a kinship with these people of faith. It never ceases to amaze me how natural and real their connection is, to the land and to the people.”
Mickey was born in England, and lived in Australia, Canada and Japan before moving to Israel at 16, where he became involved in the Zionist Youth Movement and joined the army. After university, he set up a field school in the Jordan Valley, initiating tours to Sartaba and Shechem, when he met Ann, an American tour guide. They corresponded, she visited again, and when she moved to Israel, they married. Their dream was to settle the land and create something new by bringing a nucleus of people to the Galilee. There, they would set up a community, each family cultivating a plot of land near their homes while continuing their professional lives. Though that didn’t materialize, Mickey still believes that promoting a focus on a farming culture is the best way to strengthen a people’s connection to the land. In 1976 Mickey and Ann moved to Kedumim in Samaria as one of the first 35 settler families! They experienced the joys and hardships of being true pioneers and watching Kedumim grow. Today they have four grown children and five grandchildren… though another one was expected as we went to press!
Mickey’s work allows him to develop an intimate relationship with the land, and he suffered a terrible blow five years ago during the Disengagement from the entire Gaza Strip. “I started feeling that if 10,000 people can be expelled from their land so quickly and so easily, perhaps our hold on the land is just an illusion. But I know things can be reversed. We have to make miracles happen and accept the miracles that are taking place in front of our eyes!”
Mickey is involved in the holy work of land redemption. “Land reclamation displaces no one. From the early days of Zionism we have been buying useless, unwanted land from the Arabs, for lots of money… and making it bloom! Where Ariel is today was once called, “The Mountain of Death”, the Arabs insisting that nothing would grow among the boulders.” Today, Ariel is the largest city in Samaria with 20,000 residents!
“I see the nation of Israel as leaders— leaders in fields like technology, agriculture, and medicine. Now I’m ready for the Jewish people to lead the world into an era of spirituality. I dream of the day when the State of Israel fulfills its Jewish destiny, by being a li