German Friends of KKL-JNF

March 8, 2010 17:59

Four years ago, the Second Lebanese War was the cause of huge scars that were burned into the forests of Israel's northern region.

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kkl. (photo credit: kkl)

Plant Trees to Help Rehabilitate Forests in the North

Givat Shchumit, which is located to the east of the city of Kiryat Shemona, provides a panoramic view of the entire Galilee Panhandle, from the fertile Hula Valley to the horizon by way of the Golan Heights, Metula, and the Naftali mountain range, and back to the neighborhoods of Kityat Shemona at the foot of the hill. This hill is where KKL-JNF chose to build a central donor recognition center in honor of all those who over the years were active on behalf of this northern city and its environs by contributing to regional projects, particularly in the field of afforestation.

Four years ago, the Second Lebanese War was the cause of huge scars that were burned into the forests of Israel's northern region. Tens of thousands of people volunteered to help, whether during the actual war, when they tried to stop the fires while being attacked by missiles, or after the war, to rehabilitate the forests that were burned. Two such groups recently visited the Givat Shchumit Donor Recognition Center, to mark their having participated in this huge effort. One group was comprised of veteran German friends of KKL-JNF, most of them older than the forests planted on the Naftali mountain range. Together with them was a group of Germans led by Mr. Johannes Dieckmann and his wife Christel, who are very active on Israel's behalf, their motto being "A Call for Reconciliation", which is also the name of the movement, founded by a Jewish man named Arye Ben-Israel.

In honor of Arye Ben Israel, the members of the Christian organization decided to plant a forest grove in Kiryat Shemona, continuing on the path forged by Ben Israel, who was an enthusiastic supporter of Israel in Germany. At the modest ceremony at which the appreciation plaque was unveiled, Mr. Johannes Dieckmann said that "Arye Ben Israel's heart was always connected to the state of Israel, which led him to initiate many projects to support the rebirth of the state and the enrichment of the quality of life of its residents. To date, we have initiated the planting of three forest groves, each backed by people who are active on behalf of other people. Ben Israel, who was born in Kazakhstan, passed away at the age of 43. He had married a German woman, which influenced him to call for reconciliation between Germans and Israelis, and the institutionalization of the love the Christians have for the state of Israel. It is an honor for us to recall this man and his work, and by doing so to strengthen our own ties to Israel."

Together with the Christian group, the KKL-JNF 2010 Germany Mission also dedicated their new project, the Artists Forest Grove, at the ceremony. Most members of this group visit Israel regularly, some of them for over fifty years. One of the most veteran members of the group is Ilse Schall, a resident of Berlin, who celebrated her ninetieth birthday just a few weeks ago. When she speaks, she naturally mixes a fluent Hebrew with her German: "The decision to come to Israel was difficult for me this time because of my age. I am considered KKL-JNF's 'dinosaur' in Germany. After some hesitation, I decided to join the trip this time also, mainly because my son-in-law said he would join me, and here I am! I don't regret it at all, and I'm enjoying every moment I’m here."

The short ceremony was conducted by Ms. Jana Marcus of KKL-JNF's European Desk. She related how, during the Lebanese War, Givat Shchumit served as the headquarters for the firefighters in the Galilee Panhandle: "From this vantage point it was possible to identify where fires were breaking out and to send firefighting forces in at maximum speed. The firefighters and foresters worked twenty-four hours a day, heedless of the missiles that whizzed over their heads and fell in the forest and urban areas. 50,000 dunams of forest were destroyed at that time, and complete rehabilitation of the areas that were damaged will take something like fifty years."

The KKL-JNF emissary to Germany, Mr. Reuven Barak, took the opportunity to thank all the KKL-JNF activists in Germany for their long-term partnership with KKL-JNF, through which they act on behalf of Israel and for the welfare of its citizens. The ceremony concluded with the planting of a tree and the recital of the Planter's Prayer in German, as the members of the mission stood together and read the prayer out loud.

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