Friends of KKL-JNF Switzerland Ecological Mission in Israel

Françoise Bloch is part of a small group of Friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland, who are in Israel on a promotional tour initiated and directed by the President of KKL-JNF Switzerland, Vivian Bernstein.

March 17, 2010 12:02

kkl. (photo credit: kkl)

Françoise Bloch packed the earth around the pistachio tree sapling she had just planted.  Ms. Bloch, who lives in a village near Geneva, Switzerland, was overwhelmed with memories of her late mother during those moments. “My mother passed away in 2008, and I always knew that she contributed to KKL-JNF and also supported activism against racism.  Upon her demise, I decided to continue this little family tradition.  Our family is not an official member of Geneva’s Jewish community, but Mother always cared about the state of Israel and expressed her concern when hearing news about it.  I myself arrived in Israel for the first time in 1996, for a professional conference.  On that visit I did not have enough time to experience Israel itself, but lately, thanks to having maintaining contact with KKL-JNF, I have learned a great deal about KKL-JNF’s ecological activities, and I am learning more and more since the beginning of my present visit.  Without a doubt, there is a great gap between Israel’s negative image as presented in the Swiss media, and the reality I am experiencing here."

Françoise Bloch is part of a small group of Friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland, who are in Israel on a promotional tour initiated and directed by the President of KKL-JNF Switzerland, Vivian Bernstein. For the first time, she is accompanied by her husband.  In the course of their five-day visit to Israel, the mission toured in the Negev, where they were shown afforestation projects, river restoration and floodwater conservation.  In the north, the mission toured many sites that had been well funded by contributions from KKL-JNF Switzerland.

The crown jewel of the visit was, without a doubt, their visit to the reconstructed Sataf Springs in the Jerusalem Hills, and the traditional tree planting ceremony that took place nearby in the Aminadav Forest.  All the restoration works at the Sataf site, from the reconstruction of the pool for collecting water at the mouth of the historical Sataf spring, to the restoration of the terraces for recreating ancient modes of agriculture, were accomplished thanks to the generous contributions of Friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland.  This is one of KKL-JNF’s most popular sites, and this past year it was visited by around half a million visitors.  Group participants met the many schoolchildren who started arriving at the site from early morning, filling the air with sounds of singing and fun.

Gidi Bashan, regional KKL-JNF forester, who has been living in Sataf for the past 25 years, told them about ancient agriculture in the Jerusalem Hills, which began over four thousand years ago and continues to this very day in the hills of Judea and Samaria, using the very same tools.  The pool for collecting water at the mouth of the Sataf spring, which is very full this season thanks to the winter rains, was completely reconstructed two years ago, with each of its stones replaced in its original position, and with the assistance of photographs that were taken before the shaky walls were disassembled.  Bashan spoke about the site’s educational importance, as it shows the cultivation of agricultural terraces, which to this day cover about 60% of the total area of the Jerusalem Hills.  Basham thanked the representatives of the Friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland for their contributions over the last fifteen years, which made it possible to restore the site’s ruins and make them accessible to the public.

After a short tour in Sataf, the mission proceeded to Aminadav Forest to plant young pistachio trees in the forest glades.  Elianne and Eddy Cohen stood together, holding saplings and reciting the Planter’s Prayer. They then got down on their knees to plant the tender saplings.  “We visit Israel often,” said Eddy Cohen, “and we have relatives in Haifa, but until now we were mainly active in Keren Hayesod. Since we know Vivianne, we decided to join the mission. We knew something about KKL-JNF activities in Israel, but nothing compares to seeing them firsthand. What surprises us is that even in Europe, such extensive ecological projects are not undertaken, with planning for future decades. We were especially impressed by the forest belt around Beersheba, in the desert."

Andree and Odil Aladjem of Geneva joined the tour on the recommendation of their niece, the president of KKL-JNF Switzerland. Andree, whose family is of Belgian origin, was born in Switzerland. Odil, whose family is from Egypt, was born in England, but chose to make her life in Switzerland: "My grandfather, a descendant of the Abarbanel family, lived in Egypt. In his will, he asked his children to continue contributing to the Jewish people living in the land of Israel, which they in fact did. This is how I grew up, and we all maintain this tradition."

The group's visit to Israel also included a meeting with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affair's European Desk, a visit to the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem, a fascinating lecture on birds by Dr. Yossi Leshem in KKL-JNF Hula Lake Park, and learning about Israel's water problems and some of the solutions to the chronic lack of water, which are provided by KKL-JNF with the help of its friends in Israel and throughout the world.

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