german forest 298.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After German Ambassador to Israel Dr. Harald Kindermann had examined the expressions of appreciation at the main commemorative site in the German Stats Forest at the entrance to the Negev community of Lehavim, he delivered his opinion.
"KKL-JNF's main achievement in Israel has without doubt been the reforestation of this area after hundreds of years of ecological destruction at human hands. This achievement has contributed very significantly to Israel's beauty, ecology and quality of life, and KKL-JNF can congratulate itself. Visitors to Israel are astonished not only by the country's swift development and modernization, but also by its green countryside and woodlands. In the course of my visits to Israel over the past fifteen years, before I was appointed ambassador, I have had the opportunity to observe the tremendous progress that has been made in all spheres, from hi-tech and transportation to afforestation."
The ambassador was speaking at an emotional conclusion to an eventful week of countrywide tours in which a group of donors and Friends of KKL-JNF Germany had participated. During the course of their travels, which took them from the north of the country to the south, they seized the opportunity to perform an official ceremony to inaugurate the new bird observation site and the disabled-access promenade at Aminadav Forest in the Jerusalem hills.
Together with the German Ambassador to Israel, the dozens of visitors participating in the event gathered at the main memorial in the German States Forest for the unveiling of four commemorative plaques of special importance. A children's choir from Lehavim provided music for the ceremony. Among the parents in attendance was Oded, a senior Israeli Air Force flight-safety officer, who said, "The Lahav forests provide a recreational center for residents of the area. Next Shabbat, for example, we're holding an orientation event for local families."
A plaque commemorating the planting of a wood in memory of 17 year old Ruth Herz and her parents, who were killed in the Holocaust, was unveiled by members of her family who had survived the ultimate horror.
Ze'ev Goldreich and Ruth Tewes choked back their tears as they read to the assembled guests from the extensive annals of their family in the years between the end of the 19th century and the Second World War. They also read excerpts from a letter that the young Ruth had written to her Uncle Theodor: "I still hope to start a new life in Palestine. Our personal health is good, but I feel my youth is slipping away from me in these difficult times we are survivingâ€¦."
Herman Grimm devoted his remarks in memory of the late evangelical pastor Gerhard Riegel to the clergyman's extraordinary relationship with his flock and the close ties with KKL-JNF that he fostered among members of his church. Pastor Riegel himself visited Israel twenty-five times, motivated by his love for the country and its people, and channeled his personal sense of affinity with them into support for KKL-JNF activities throughout the country.
No less moving was the unveiling ceremony of the symbolic plaque for the Nahal Oz reservoir, which also took place in German States Forest, as the reservoir's proximity to the Karni checkpoint into Gaza precluded any possibility of its being held at the site itself, for security reasons.
While Avi Dickstein, Director of KKL-JNF Resources and Development Division and KKL-JNF emissary to Germany Tzachi Ganor unveiled the main commemorative plaque, donors Hans Dieter and Ingrid Roth were invited to unveil a plaque recording their significant personal contribution to the construction of the reservoir.
Hans Dieter Roth surprised those present by reading an emotional farewell speech he had written to emissary Tzachi Ganor, who is due to leave his post in September. In rhyme, in German, Roth described Ganor's years of activity in Germany and his organization of the KKL-JNF Friends delegations he had led in the following terms: "Tzachi is our hero in KKL-JNF Germany." Ganor responded later, saying, "This is very touching. I was taken by surprise. I really wasn't expecting this."
Lehavim Council Head Eli Levi spoke of Germany's longstanding contribution to thequality of life in that desert region: "Lehavim's children have sung you a song about the life's honey and its sting. Your donation makes the sting less painful and allows us to enjoy the honey. Since my appointment as head of the Lehavim Council, I have made strengthening ties with the German States one of my objectives. I want stronger ties with children, adults, families, communities, churches and youth movements. As for the inauguration of Nahal Oz reservoir, I should like to take this occasion to say that I, like you, would like to believe that the day will come when Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip on the western side of the border will also use it and benefit from it."
Dickstein had come "to say 'thank you' for your help, your cooperation and your joint contribution." He dwelt on the unique contribution made by Germany among the fifty-five countries worldwide that help to provide the State of Israel with a physical infrastructure and a good quality of life, through KKL-JNF.
Ambassador Kindermann placed his finger on the map of Israel, saying, "Not long ago I discovered that the "German States Forest" is marked on ordinary maps of the country. This finally made me understand just how enormously successful KKL-JNF's combined enterprise with its supporters in Germany is. This can only have a positive influence on relations between the two countries."
The event concluded as the participants planted new trees at the main site in the German States Forest, where KKL-JNF has recently installed an underground irrigation system to help new plants take root in this desert environment where some earlier plantings have failed.
Ambassador Kindermann grasped the hoe, while other members of the group simply made do with their hands. And so another milestone was added in the long road of unique cooperation between communities of Friends of KKL-JNF Germany, KKL-JNF Israel and the Israeli State.
Lehavim Council Head Eli Levi is already talking of the next joint project with KKL-JNF: "The next stage will be the development of the eastern approach to the community, the development of the parking lot designed to serve IDF units that train in the forest and its environs in a regular basis, and the preservation of the rare Sternbergia plants that grow in the area. This is a practical example of sustainable development."
KKL-JNF always existed in Germany, but only since the early 1950s it is registered officially as a NGO with the Headquarter in Duesseldorf and another three offices in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.
Beside the two big above mentioned projects, the German Forest and the Nahal Oz Waterreservoir, JNF-Germany is leaving its "fingerprints" all over the country. Picnic and Restplaces, promenades like in Aminadav Forest, the most beautiful waterreservoir in Yatir Forest, schoolgardens and more.
JNF-Germany also always participates in international projects like in the Rabin Park, the reforestation of Carmel in the 1990s and now in the Galilee, in the projects in memory of Ilan Ramon z"l and the Columbia-Crew and - of course - in the Martyrs Forest.