The sixth KKL-JNF Leadership Conference was officially opened on Sunday, March 27, 2011, at a gala evening at the Botanical Gardens in Jerusalem. The opening event took place in the presence of the mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Nir Barkat, KKL-JNF World Chairman Mr. Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF presidents from all over the world, and members of delegations from the various countries.
The President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, greeted conference participants by means of a short film that was shown at the event: "What has made Israel great is not nature itself, but rather the nature of the people who live here. KKL-JNF has changed the color of Israel's land from brown, the color of the desert, to green, the color of gardens. You have changed the history of our people by planting trees, building water reservoirs, erecting new communities and various development initiatives. Each of you has a share in this enterprise of overcoming the call of desert and introducing the call of hope. Your achievements are a gift for posterity. Continue on this path!"
"This conference is one of KKL-JNF's most important events," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, "and there is no substitute for the unique feeling we have when our people from different countries meet here, in Jerusalem. Many difficult tasks await us, and the conference gives us an opportunity to think together and to join hands with each other and with officials of both the public and private sectors. Together we will be able to face future challenges."
Mayor Barkat noted that Jerusalem is the natural choice for marking KKL-JNF's 110th anniversary: "People of all religions all over the world dream of visiting Jerusalem at least once in their lifetimes. You came here in order to help us build Israel and Jerusalem," he said.
Barkat described his vision for city development, emphasizing three main goals: making the city more attractive for tourists, making it friendly for businessmen who are potential investors and encouraging young couples to make their homes here. Development programs include a belt of green parks that are to be erected around the city. "We have a shared goal – we are all involved with building Jerusalem," Barkat said. "If not for the partnership with KKL-JNF, many of the initiatives that we are presently promoting could not be realized."
Joseph Hess, conference co-chair: "We are all united around the important task of contributing to our brothers and sisters in Israel. When Israel feels pain, we all feel pain. When Israel experiences loss, we all feel it together with her. More than 300 participants from 31 countries are here at the conference, and we all stand united with Israel."
Professor Moshe Kon, president of KKL-JNF Holland, presented a very special
gift to Mayor Barkat – chestnuts from the Anne Frank chestnut tree. This was the only tree that Anne Frank could see when she was in hiding during World War II, and it helped give her courage and strength to remain alive. In 1960, KKL-JNF planted the Anne Frank Memorial Forest, where her father, Otto Frank, planted the first tree. "Our job is to publicize Israel's positive sides," Professor Kon said. "We hope that Jerusalem will become an example of how it is possible to live together in peace."
Roberto Munos, president of KKL-JNF Chile and co-chair of the conference, said that the representatives would learn from each other and get to know about the different countries’ projects during the conference: "Chile, for example, is especially proud of a new project – the co-existence trail in the north, which goes from Dalton to Gush Halav. This is a new task that KKL-JNF has taken upon itself – to bring people closer for peace."
The Botanical Gardens in Givat Ram, where the opening evening took place, is a charming garden in the heart of the city with many different species of flora, and the site of various educational activities. KKL-JNF is one of the founders of the gardens and partner to its management.
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