The participants of KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference looked out from the hill at Zuqim at the developing community. Ezra Ravins, Chairman, Arava Tichona Regional Council, noted that there is a KKL-JNF project wherever one looks today: water reservoirs, infrastructures for new neighborhoods, playgrounds, entry roads, and development.
Nina Paul from the United States Sapphire Society Women spoke about the first Sapphire Women's contribution in 2002 towards the establishment of an infrastructure for the first houses in Zuqim. Several months ago a ceremony was held here in honor of the development of the square - made possible by the contribution of close to one million Shekels. She also told about the activities of the Sapphire Women and noted that women have power and need to remember that.
Eran Atner, head of KKL-JNF southern region, elaborated about the need to establish a business infrastructure that will focus on tourism. 200 guest houses are planned here as well as restaurants and spas. As of today, 12 rooms have already been built and another 70 are under construction. Since the infrastructure for water, electricity, and sewage has not yet been completed, the site is not yet opened to the public.
Max Federmann, Chairman of KKL-JNF Sweden promised Tata Degani, secretary of the zuqim community, that KKL-JNF Sweden would assess the possibility of supporting the project. Degani thanked everyone and noted that without KKL-JNF and its friends worldwide, Zuqim would not have been able to develop as it had in only four years. 25 families now live in the community on a permanent basis and another 20 are in the final stages of building homes.
Dedicating the Playground at Shomriya
On the last day of the KKL-JNF World Leadership Conference a dedication ceremony was conducted in Shomriya in the Negev for a playground in memory of Leon and Andzia Waldman from Australia. The ceremony was attended by conference participants, headed by KKL-JNF Co-Chairman, Avraham Duvdevani.
Isla Feldman, Director of KKL-JNF South Africa, introduced Rob Schneider, CEO of JNF Australia. Schneider noted that people had come here from Gush Katif with a dream of establishing a new community - a dream that was made possible thanks to KKL-JNF Australia, who worked to fulfill that dream for them.
Rob Schneider presided over the ceremony against the backdrop of the lovely panoramic view from park overlooking the Lahav Forest. He noted that evacuees from Atzmona, the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, and of course, KKL-JNF had established a new oasis at the site. KKL-JNF Australia has been working in this area for a long time and they are now talking about the establishment of four reservoirs in the area. Schneider thanked Ami Uliel, Director of KKL-JNF southern region and the regional staff who made it possible to promote the projects. He also noted the contribution of KKL-JNF Germany and Switzerland for establishing the projects in the Lahav Forest.
Moshe Paul, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, said: "We, the residents that live here plow the fields and plant trees, but you have helped us bring life to this area. All of us are one family, and we are working together to strengthen the country. Thanks to you there are 700 residents in this community. In the name of all the residents, I am grateful to KKL-JNF Australia."
Dudu Resh, head of the Atzmona community, noted that it seems to him that the community is important to Rob Schneider and Ron Ferster, even more than to him. "They take keen interest and know every detail. This year was a drought year and it was very difficult for us to cultivate the orchards because of the water crisis. I am therefore grateful to KKL-JNF not only for this playground, but also for the reservoirs that have been built in the area. The reservoirs enable us to exist and farm our land. You are our partners in building this area, and together we are fulfilling the Zionist vision. We are doing this with the help of our friends from Australia and the wonderful staff of Ami Uliel."
Ron Ferster, Avraham Duvdevani, Moshe Paul, and Dudu Resh unveiled the recognition sign. Ferster noted that "The Jewish community in Australia has a special connection and a unique commitment to the State of Israel. One reason for this is that both countries have a common pioneering spirit and are both coping with the arid areas, which constitutes a large part of both Australia and Israel. For this reason members of KKL-JNF Australia understand the importance of the Negev and of conquering the wilderness to fulfill the Zionist idea. An additional challenge is to encourage the young generation in the community to continue to identify with Israel and Zionism. This is perhaps the most important task that KKL-JNF has in the Diaspora today."
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