Hungary’s Minister of Agriculture tours the Negev.
“I was surprised to see how green the desert is,” said Hungarian Minister of Agriculture Dr. Sándor Fazekas, who was visiting Israel for the first time. “It seems that if you invest plenty of thought and hard work, you can succeed.”
The Yatir Forest, which is situated on the semi-arid slopes of Mount Hebron to the northeast of Beersheba and extends over an area of 30,000 dunam (approx. 7,500 acres), is the largest planted forest in the Middle East. It comprises over four million trees of various kinds: conifers, broadleaved trees, grapevines for wine production and whole orchards of cherry trees.
The Hungarian delegation was welcomed by Itzik Moshe, Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Southern Region, who guided the group and explained how KKL-JNF foresters have developed techniques for harvesting surface runoff water by means of limans (shallow depressions with trees planted in the middle), shichim (terraces or embankments) and dams, all of which help to collect and dam floodwaters so that they stay long enough to water trees growing in them and prevent soil erosion.
“The challenge we are facing is the war against desertification,” explained Moshe. “It’s impossible to transform the desert into a rainy region like Europe, but we can create green islands that are rich in resources such as vegetation, grazing land, animals and shady spots for tourists.”
KKL-JNF representatives Karin Bolton-Laor, Director of KKL-JNF’s International Relations and Conferences Department, and Sharon Geva, Director of the organization’s European Desk, also escorted the delegation. Karin Bolton-Laor told the guests about KKL-JNF activities and described how the organization was founded 115 years ago in order to acquire land and develop the country, with the support of Jewish communities worldwide. “I’m sure that we can find a variety of areas for future cooperation,” she said.
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