A mother and son look at an information board on the Bricha Trail, a project that is being launched by JNF South Africa and KKL-JNF on Tu Bishvat on Wednesday..
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
“Over 300,000 Jews were saved by the Bricha (escape) Movement,” explains Jewish National Fund South Africa chairwoman Isla Feldman.
“People came off ships and they were smuggled into the forests around Haifa. It is incredibly important that we give recognition and remember those who rescued them.”
To celebrate Tu Bishvat on Wednesday, JNF of South Africa together with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund will launch the Bricha Trail Project – a new partnership- donor project to mark Israel’s 70th Year of Independence.
The Bricha Trail is to be a commemorative historical trail. A 3 km. educational loop-trail, it will be situated in one of Israel’s most beautiful forests on Hof HaCarmel. Along the trail, the history of the Bricha Movement will be described and venerated for posterity. It is also one of the routes that some of the 300,000 Jews took to get into Israel.
The development of the unique trail was recently adopted by JNF South Africa. The project will involve laying out a walking trail and recreational areas, planting trees and placing information boards and educational signs along the trail.
“The Bricha Movement worked in eastern Europe after the Holocaust to bring Jews who went back to the countries of their birth and found they had nothing, rescued them and got them to Israel between 1945 and 1948 – prior to the establishment of the State of Israel,” Feldman explained.
The movement comprised a group of Holocaust survivors – including renowned Israeli poet Abba Kovner – who had reached Israel despite the British Mandate and knew about the many displaced Jews still languishing in Europe.
“The Bricha Movement chose to return to rescue these forsaken people, galvanizing their meager resources to traverse Europe at huge risk. These people were brought into Israel in the dead of night – they are the pioneers,” she continued.
“We wanted to do something to mark the 70 years since the movement succeeded in bringing 300,000 Jews into Israel to fulfill their dream and the dream of the Jewish people,” Feldman highlighted.
“The Bricha Trail Project captures the essential spirit of the State of Israel upon which the modern country was founded – heroism, faith, vision, fortitude, and a capacity to prevail against all odds.”
JNF South Africa is raising the funds to build up the trail “so that tourists, school children and locals can learn about this heart-wrenching journey.
“It’s going to be an educational trail and journey – we have to learn from our past to build the future,” Feldman added.
In addition to the Bricha Trail launch, JNF South Africa will also host a multicultural event at the JNF Walter Sisulu Environmental Center in the Mamelodi Township, near Pretoria.
The center, which was opened in 2004, focuses on teaching Mamelodi residents about ecology and the environment. Thus far the center has educated over 100,000 children.
Part of the event will include entertainment by the local children, a tour of the Eco-Center, and a special commemorative tree ceremony and planting.
Israeli Ambassador Lior Keinan and Deputy Ambassador Ayellet Black are expected to attend, among other officials.