(photo credit: KKL)
On a sunny March morning, friends of KKL-JNF from Germany assembled at the Olive Tree urban park in Meitar, a town not far from Beersheva, to dedicate a new forest watchtower, the gift of Hans Dieter and Ingrid Roth of Wiesbaden, Germany. The group was greeted by KKL-JNF's Jana Marcus, who spoke about the importance of the watchtower, which commands a view of Meitar Forest and the surrounding region: "The importance of fire watchtowers in Israel's forests became painfully evident during the terrible Carmel forest fire that raged in our country last December. It was a KKL-JNF forester who first spotted the fire from a Carmel watchtower, and KKL-JNF firefighters were the first people on the scene. Here in the Negev, where it gets so hot in the summer, the fire watchtower Hans and Ingrid donated is especially important. I would like to thank you, not only on behalf of KKL-JNF, but also on behalf of all of our children and grandchildren, because your gift will hopefully ensure that the beautiful forests KKL-JNF planted in this arid region will also benefit future generations."
Before the ceremony, we met Dr. Tzvika Cargila, a local resident who feels personally responsible for taking care of the park: "Olive Tree park, a gift of friends of KKL-JNF from Germany, is an integral part of our neighborhood. Artists come to paint here, children from the local schools come to see the wildflowers that are in full bloom this time of year, and on the weekends and holidays, the park is packed. We recently planted an additional forty olive trees here on our own, and we hope to be planting more. Next week we'll be meeting with Ami Uliel, director of KKL-JNF's Southern Region, to discuss future development plans. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the KKL-JNF delegation from Germany in the park today, so I would ask you to express our heartfelt thanks to this group for their support. Olive Tree Park creates a real bond between the people who live in Meitar and the people who feel connected to Israel in Germany."
After being presented an album on the Negev by Jana, Hans Dieter spoke with us about his personal ties with Israel and KKL-JNF: "I first heard about KKL-JNF many years ago, when our priest returned from a visit to Israel, where he had seen what KKL-JNF had accomplished in so many different fields. I was affected by his enthusiasm. Since then, my wife Ingrid and I have visited Israel about fifteen times, and have contributed towards various KKL-JNF projects, such as the water reservoir near Nachal Oz and a forest near Mahanayim in the north. We decided to fund the watch tower because it provided us with an opportunity to finance a complete project from beginning to end."
Ingrid added: "Before we left Germany, I did a search on Google Earth, and I was very excited to find the Nachal Oz reservoir that we had contributed towards. It made me feel that the distance between our two countries is not so great."
The group, who will be spending ten days in Israel, visited various KKL-JNF sites throughout Israel. After the dedication ceremony, the group insisted on visiting the watchtower and climbing up to the forester's perch, from which they had a breathtaking 360 degree view of the entire region. They then proceeded to Nahal Beersheva Park, where they were greeted by Itai Freiman, director of this huge KKL-JNF project, who told them about how a polluted garbage dump and a neglected quarry was being transformed into a beautiful green park that will be larger than New York's Central Park. Itai met the group at Beit Eshel on the eastern side of the park, the historic site of a settlement that was established in 1943 and was restored thanks to contribution from friends of KKL-JNF from Germany and Canada. "We began planning this park in the year 2000," Itai said. "This was one of Israel's biggest environmental reclamation projects. The Beit Eshel site was completed in 2007. We are now concentrating on two huge projects – the Nahal Beersheva Park amphitheater, which will seat 12,000 people, and a ninety dunam lake, which will be irrigated entirely from recycled water.
"Beit Eshel isn't just an open park, it's more like a museum, a more intimate site where students and schoolchildren will come to learn about Beersheva's history. My son is here with me today, he just loves Nahal Beersheva Park, and he joins me in thanking you for your support of the city of Beersheva, KKL-JNF and Israel."
Arno Wess, a biologist from Frankfurt, was visiting Israel for the first time with his father Wilhelm: "My father has visited countries all over the world, but he's never been to Israel, so I told him that he had to visit the holy land before he gets too much older. We planted a forest grove in the German States Forest, and the inauguration ceremony will be taking place tomorrow. As a biologist, I had heard about KKL-JNF's afforestation project, and I am very impressed by KKL-JNF's success in growing forests in arid regions, an achievement unparalleled anywhere in the world. Planting the forest grove has been especially meaningful for me, and I would like to thank KKL-JNF for giving me the opportunity to leave a positive carbon footprint on the earth."
His father Wilhelm added: "In my office in Frankfurt, I have a certificate on the wall attesting that Arno planted five trees in my honor in Israel. When he told me about this trip, I said that I must go, and I am having one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Israel has some incredible wines. A KKL-JNF tour and a cup of Emerald Riesling is really a winning combination!"
For Articles, comments or use please contactAhuva Bar-LevKKL-JNF – Information and PublicationsEmail: [email protected]Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493www.kkl.org.il/eng