Many of us remember growing up with the Blue Box, the symbol of Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, in which we collected money for redeeming the
Land of Israel.
The Blue Box was created by a banker in Galicia named
Haim Kleinman – who died in the Holocaust – and its mass distribution began in
On Wednesday evening, a giant Blue Box was placed in front of the
stage at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where President Shimon Peres
and Avraham Katz-Oz, the chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel,
presented the Magshim Israel Yafa (“Beautiful Israel Achievers”) Award to
The award is given annually by the Council for a Beautiful
Israel to a project that has made “a significant and unique contribution to the
quality of life and the environment in Israel,” and this year – coinciding with
its 110th anniversary – KKL-JNF was the sole recipient.
organization’s contribution to making Israel bloom before and after the
establishment of the state has been enormous.
KKL-JNF has also, as Peres
pointed out, helped many other countries around the world, from Burma to China,
adapt Israeli technology and expertise in forestry, soil and water, including
pioneering techniques in drip irrigation and water recycling.
argued that the country’s agricultural achievements, symbolized by KKL-JNF, have
contributed to improving Israel’s image in the world more than anything
KKL-JNF scientists have pioneered techniques for drip irrigation
and water recycling.
In accepting the prize, KKL-JNF chairman Efi
Stenzler noted that it is “the largest Jewish green group in the world.”
Stenzler stressed that the organization could not have survived without the
generous support of Jews around the world, from Australia to South
Katz-Oz said there were many ways to contribute to KKLJNF, such
as buying tree certificates, but that no symbol was as potent as the Blue
“KKL-JNF was born before any of us, but all of us remember the Blue
Box in our kindergartens and classrooms, when as children we dropped coins into
it,” he said.
KKL-JNF says the money that the organization collects is
used in a variety of ways “to realize the Zionist dream.”
purchased and developed 250,000 hectares (about 620,000 acres) of land, built
the infrastructure on 100,000 hectares for more than 1,000 communities (focusing
on the northern and southern regions), aided in the absorption of new
immigrants, and promoted ecological education and tourism.
artificial lakes, dams, reservoirs and water treatment plants it created enable
Israel to make the most of its limited fresh water resources.
programs to introduce youngsters for here and abroad to the importance of
protecting the environment.
Many Israeli families and tourists enjoy
KKL-JNF’s more than 1,000 parks, playgrounds and recreation areas, especially on
weekends and holidays. These include picnic spots, hiking trails and bike paths
as well as facilities for the disabled.
But the organization’s best-known
contribution has been the planting of more than 240 million trees, “greening the
land of Israel and preserving vital ecosystems.”
Today, it has its own
website and Facebook page, and you can find it on Twitter and YouTube. But
perhaps we should consider renewing the old symbol of the Blue Box and with it,
the pioneering spirit of the Jewish state.
As one of Zionism’s founding
fathers, Menachem Ussishkin, wrote: “The coin the child contributes or collects
for the redemption of the land is not important in itself; it is not the child
that gives to the Keren Kayemeth, but rather the fund that gives to the child, a
foothold and lofty ideal for all the days of his life.”
Why not get
everyone involved in a new push for the Pushke (the name for the Blue Box in
Yiddish), from the Foreign Ministry to Jewish communities around the world, to
reintroduce it to Jewish homes, schools, institutions and businesses. Christians
and other supporters of Israel might be persuaded to collect money for KKLJNF
via the Blue Box, too.
This would not only boost this worthy’s
organization’s coffers, but might help reinforce Zionism’s positive image in a
world that seems to have forgotten how much the Jewish state has accomplished