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The country's future foresters received scholarships for excellence in a festive ceremony at Hebrew University's Faculty of Agriculture, Food, & Environmental Studies in Rehovot. The students who received scholarships are studying open-area management and sustainable development in a unique program that opened four years ago with the cooperative initiative of the Hebrew University and KKL-JNF. The program, developed through contributions of Ronald Appleby of Canada, includes academic studies in the area of nature preservation as well as practical experience in the field in the KKL-JNF forests during summer vacations.
Professor Eli Feinerman, faculty Dean, noted in his remarks at the ceremony, that "today we are celebrating excellence in the area of forestry and open areas. The environment is constantly being damaged through human activity and this should be a warning sign to all of us. As ours is the only faculty in the country that studies agriculture we try to contribute our part in preserving nature. Ecology is one of our banners and forestry and open area management are the front lines of this area. Special thanks go to KKL-JNF for their friendship, initiative, and cooperation."
Avraham Duvdevani, KKL-JNF Co-chairman, spoke warmly. "The midrash states that that when God created the Adam, the first man, He took him through the Garden of Eden and told him, 'I have created all this for you (mankind). Guard the world because there is no one to repair it after you.' During these difficult days many young people choose to study in high-paying professions and here we have such a group who are also saying: 'we want to make the world better and more beautiful.' You have learned from the trees to strive upward, to attain achievements like a tree searching for the sun."
Dr. Tzvika Avni, head of KKL-JNF Forestry Department and one of the founders of the program stated. "Our aim is to accept skilled and trained foresters and thus we have organized studying and observation areas for this purpose within forests and botanical gardens. During the summer we test the students' suitability for work in the field."
Professor Haim Kigel, Head of the Faculty for Nature Preservation explained. "The connection between the academia and the field is very natural in our area. Our students love nature and understand the importance of preserving it." Yossi Smoli, Assistant Dean, added. "All the parties benefit from the program: KKL-JNF receives professional manpower with knowledge of the profession. The Faculty enriches its academic studies with field work and the students gain practical experience and receive scholarships."
Nitza Sapir from KKL-JNF Forestry Department guided the students' work during the summer. "The students discovered much that they didn't know about the work of the KKL-JNF and it was also a great experience for KKL-JNF staff to see young students putting their books aside and going out to the field for physical work. I came to know the youngsters who will continue our way and continue to preserve the forests. The forest is the link that connects us with the future generation."
Hagai Yavluvitz, an expert forester who received a past scholarship for excellence and now works with KKL-JNF added. "The combination of knowledge and practical experience is the key to professional forestry. Many of the courses that I have studied at the Faculty of Agriculture serve me today in my work and indeed, the professional knowledge that I acquired during my studies complements the experience in the field that I received with KKL-JNF - and vice versa."
Albert Kaminer spoke on behalf of the students receiving scholarships. "None of us chose this area of study for economic reasons and all of us need positive reinforcement sometimes. We have received not only a financial grant, which certainly helps us, but also the feedback that what we are doing is appreciated. The program has opened up new possibilities for us, encouraging students to deal with environmental issues and we are grateful for the Appleby Fund that has promoted this important program".
There were not only speeches and greetings at the ceremony. Professor Haim Kigel delivered a fascinating lecture on the effects of sheep corrals on the northern Negev landscape and Nurit Heubscher, an MA student, lectured on the rehabilitation of forests after fires.
At the peaceful musical interlude Ruth Itzkovitz-Eyal gave a flute recital and at the end of the ceremony each student came up to the dais to receive a grant: NIS 6,000 for BA students and NIS 18,000 for MA students.
Iris, one of the students in the program, remarked that "the combination of ecology and forestry is very exciting. These days, it is difficult to be a student and the scholarship helped me a great deal." Yishai, another student, summarized. "The bond with Nature attracted me to the faculty where I have been exposed to different study courses and decided to take up forestry as well. The previous generation made the desert bloom and our task is to continue to preserve it."
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