KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani spoke at the concluding session of the Fifth KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference about "Provisions for the Way Home".
"'Provisions for the Way Home' - When a person goes on a trip, he takes food and drink for his journey. This idea was developed in Jewish tradition, which does not focus only on physical things. Our sages said that when people part, they should share teachings of the Torah, 'and as a result, one will be remembered'. Meaning to say: besides provisions for the way and walking the traveler to the door, there is also a spiritual message that is added, spiritual provisions. I would like to concentrate on what we will be taking home, beyond our experiences.
"This conference, like the one before it, concentrated on the Negev. This is the place where the Jewish people was born. The first Jew, our father Abraham, settled in the Negev. Isaac follows his path and experiences conflict in the Negev, because there were other peoples there. It was here that our forefathers had to deal with the lack of water, dig wells and protect their land.
"The challenge of the Negev remains the same from the time of Abraham to Udi Gat and the other heads of regional councils. This is the vision of the prophet Isaiah: 'The wilderness and the arid land shall be glad, and the Arava shall rejoice and blossom like the tulip.' 'Water will burst forth from the desert and streams in the Arava.' Ben Gurion continued the vision, because this is the center, this is the largest region of Israel, and it needs a lot more work and support. We should not, however, think that KKL-JNF is just about the Negev. There are many more tasks that KKL-JNF is carrying out in the central region and in Galilee.
"You came here to be with us on very special days, Memorial Day and Independence Day. You wept with us for the thousands of fallen soldiers and danced with us the next day on Independence Day. I am sure you will take this experience home with you.
"For 107 years, KKL-JNF has done a tremendous amount for the country. There is not one kilometer that does not bear KKL-JNF's imprint. I know that it is easier to build something new, to create something new, than to maintain that which already exists. Bicycles and ecology are certainly very important, but on the other hand, we also must protect what we have accomplished until now, and that costs money.
"KKL-JNF is primarily identified with the forests. We received a mandate from the government, a covenant was signed and we are very professional in the field. Ten years ago, we opened the forests up to the public, and now you can see people coming the night before Independence Day to make sure they have a place the next day. In order to preserve the forest, we need to invest tens of millions of shekels annually, before even planting one new tree and it is difficult to raise this money. It is up to you, and this is also something you should take home with you.
"Yes, it is more attractive to be Abraham and Jacob, whose biographies are told over many chapters in the Torah. There is only one chapter in the Torah devoted to Isaac. Isaac, however, was the one who stayed in Israel, and re-dug his father's wells. There is huge heroism in preserving what already exists.
"We launched the 'Walk the Land' campaign for worldwide Jewish communities -walking trails on which every few kilometers there is a sign that marks a KKL-JNF project, from Israel's north to south. More than 3,000 people participated in activities related to this project in Detroit. We thought that about sixty communities would be participating, but now, we already have more than one hundred communities. We expect that more than 150,000 people will learn about what KKL-JNF is accomplishing thanks to this campaign.
"In the Diaspora, KKL-JNF is identified with the Blue Box. Here its importance is more emotional than financial, because sometimes it costs more to deal with the Blue Box than the amount of money inside it. But it is through the Blue Box that we become connected, and this is how we teach our children about KKL-JNF. This is the next generation. It's so nice to see that in Mexico and Sao Paulo we have presidents who are under forty. Sixty years is just a beginning, not a conclusion and certainly not a time to rest. We have done a lot to realize Herzl's vision, but the road in front of us is still long. This is what you have learned here, through experiences of all the senses. Here is Israel we commit ourselves to carrying out whatever task you entrust us with."
KKL-JNF World Chairman, Efi Stenzler closed the concluding session with the shehecheyanu blessing - to He who has sustained us, kept us alive and brought us to this day. "It was very important for me that the WLC convened on Israel Memorial Day and Independence Day, so that everyone could feel the special atmosphere these days bring. We have worked on this for a whole year, with not a few overseas telephone calls. Special Thanks to Ms.Â Sharon Marcovitz Hart, to Avi Dickstein, to the international committee and to everyone who contributed towards preparing this wonderful conference.
"We have to plant seven million trees here, the number of citizens of Israel, and another eight million, the number of Jews in the Diaspora. Let us do it together for future generations. Let us do it enthusiastically, so that Israel will be a better place to live, with a better environment, for all its inhabitants in the coming generations. Together it is possible."
For more information, please visit our website at www.kkl.org.il/eng or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org