A group of young Australian political leaders has arrived for a visit in Israel, to acquaint themselves more closely with life in the country, understand its complex realities and see how cooperation between Israel and Australia can contribute to both nations. They have been visiting sites all over Israel, have met a variety of local public figures and have viewed KKL-JNF projects in the south. All the guests were surprised to discover that Israel was not exactly as they had seen and heard it described in the news.
The visit was initiated by AIJAC (The Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council), as part of the Rambam Israel Fellowship Program. Lauren Jones, who hosted the group on AIJAC’s behalf, explained that the study tours provided in Israel for public figures, journalists and influence groups give those taking part a better understanding of Israeli society and the challenges faced by the State.
During its visit, the group took part in an excursion designed to show them something of KKL-JNF’s varied initiatives for the development of water resources in the Negev. Friends of KKL-JNF in Australia support many of these projects, especially in the area of Bnei Shimon Regional Council, so the guests were able to feel that they, too, had played a part in these important undertakings.
The reservoirs that KKL-JNF is establishing in the Negev improve Israel’s water economy, especially during this prolonged period of water crisis. The reservoirs take in the effluent from Beersheba and its environs, together with sewage from the Hebron area, and reclaim them for agricultural use. This prevents pollution of groundwater sources, reduces the need for irrigation with precious potable water, saves farmers the cost of irrigation and permits the cultivation of lands that have fallen into neglect.
The Hatzerim reservoir adjacent to the kibbutz of the same name in the Beersheba region was established thanks to contributions from the 360 Degrees group of young donors from Melbourne, Australia. Here at the reservoir the group met Eli Rothschild, director of water projects at Hatzerim, who told them: “Developing water resources is a major necessity in this country, especially in the Negev. Water is the key to all kinds of development in this region – to settlement, agriculture and even tourism.”
Hatzerim reservoir, which went into operation less than a month ago, will absorb up to 380,000 cubic meters of water per year, from the sewage of kibbutz itself, the nearby Air Force base and the Beersheba sewage purification plant. The installation includes two precipitation sinks for the precipitation of sludge. The clean water is then channeled into the reservoir, from where it is taken to irrigate Hatzerim’s jojoba fields. This new water source will enable local farmers to plant an additional 500 dunam (approx 125 acres) of jojoba. This desert crop yields beans, which, when pressed, provide oil for the cosmetics industry. The kibbutz has established an oil extraction plant, and the resulting produce is exported to a variety of factories around the world.
Andrew Porter of Melbourne, who is an advisor to the Australian Prime Minister: “It’s amazing to see how you manage to make use of every single drop of water and develop every bit of land. Australia and Israel share some points of similarity and face some of the same challenges, such as the water issue. It’s very important to continue to promote cooperation between the two countries in every area.”
Ben Morton of Perth, Liberal Party State Director: “Israel is very different from what I expected. Until now I knew very little about the country, but here I’ve learned a great deal about the local security and social situation. There are things that can be understood properly only after discussing them with the local people and seeing the places for oneself; this means that it has been a very important trip for me.”
Sally Cray of Sidney, Senior Advisor to the office of the Hon. Malcolm
Turnbull, MP: “In the area where I work there is a large and active
Jewish community with which I maintain constant contact. So, when I
heard about the opportunity to visit Israel, I didn’t hesitate for a
moment. This visit has enabled me to identify with the profound love
that Australian Jews feel for Israel, and understand their desire to be
involved in what goes on here.”Tim Lisle-Williams
, from the
office of Mark Dreyfus MP, Federal Member for Isaacs: “As I work for
one of Australia’s two Jewish members of Parliament, it was very
important for me to visit Israel. I now have a better understanding of
the realities of life in Israel and the difficulties that the country
faces. Australia is a huge country, while Israel is so small – but you
don’t understand how enormous the difference is until you get here.”
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