Helicopter Crash Memorial near Kibbutz Daphne

December 11th 2013

Golan Heights MemorialLocated adjacent to the cemetery of Kibutz Dafna in the upper Galilee, the heartbreaking Helicopter Crash Memorial consists of 73 large stone structures. Each of these represents one of the Israel Defense Forces soldiers who was tragically killed in transit, on his way to duty in Southern Lebanon in 1997, when two helicopters collided.

The rocks here are arranged somewhat randomly on a lush green lawn. Blood red anemones bloom near the stones. A shallow, round, bright blue pool of water in the center reflects the closest of the 73 stones. Around the edge, on two concentric circles of grey bricks, the names of the victims of the helicopter crash are inscribed.

The collision of twin Israeli Air Force helicopters in the Galilee was the worst helicopter disaster in the history of the State of Israel. All 73 passengers, including eight crewmembers, were killed. After the mid-air collision, one helicopter went down in a field at Kibbutz Dafna and the other damaged helicopter crashed into the courtyard of a small guesthouse in the nearby Moshav She’ar Yashuv. The date of the tragedy, February 4, 1997, was declared a national day of mourning by the Israeli government. Over a decade later, in February 2008, a Helicopter Crash Memorial was instated, built with help from a $450,000 contribution by multi-millionaire Arcadi Gaydamak.

Visitors can follow the water that flows from the pool to another large rock. Plaques on the second large rock describe the tragic incident. After reading about the disaster, follow the path from this rock to the last section of the memorial. If you look closely at the tree here, you’ll see that the leaves are also inscribed with the names of the 73 soldiers who perished.

The news of the 1997 helicopter crash is imprinted in the memory of all Israelis who were in the county on that tragic day, yet many visitors from overseas may not be aware that it took place. In a county abounding with memorial sites, this monument is considered one of the most moving and among the most elegantly designed. The Helicopter Crash Memorial site is open all day, is wheelchair accessible and has no entrance fee.