Beersheba Forest Dedicated in Memory of Frances K. Coblentz.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Friday, May 5, a forest that forms part of the green belt around Beersheva, the Negev’s capital, was dedicated in memory of Frances (Fanny) K. Coblentz. The forest was a gift bequeathed from the legacy of her niece, Goldie Keehn.
The ceremony, which took place at the KKL-JNF Donor Recognition Center in American Independence Park in the Judean Mountains, was attended by Goldie’s family, some of whom live in Israel and some of whom came especially from the United States. KKL-JNF’s Avinoam Binder, who emceed the ceremony, greeted the guests and told them a bit about the site.
“American Independence Park was dedicated on July 4, 1976, the bicentennial anniversary of the United States, in honor of the friendship between our two countries. It spreads out over about 7,000 acres, which makes it one of the biggest parks in Israel. The trees were planted in the early 1950s, and it was here that KKL-JNF chose to honor American donors who have contributed to the many and diverse projects throughout the country. There are over 6,000 donor recognition plaques here, there’s even one for President Trump, who made a contribution to KKL-JNF a few years ago. We are very happy and honored that your Aunt Goldie and Great-aunt Fanny are now remembered here.”
Goldie Keehn was only nine months old when her mother died, and she was raised by her Aunt Fanny, who never had children of her own. Fanny was a well-respected teacher, as was Goldie. In the words of her nephew, Dr. Aryeh Keehn of Beit Shemesh, “Goldie was a free spirit of the sixties who loved nature and greenery. She studied the Feldenkrais method in Israel in the 1970s and was very devoted to her family and also to the state of Israel.”
The dedication ceremony was opened by Dr. Keehn’s wife Arlene.
“Goldie donated a forest of trees in honor of her Aunt Fanny, trees that help make the area around Beersheva green. We are very grateful to her for her gift and to KKL-JNF for carrying out this project,” Arlene said. After she spoke, Dr. Keehn shared some recollections of holidays the family had spent together and of how all the nieces and nephews always looked forward to Goldie’s visits.
Elisheva Weintraub of Queens, who is spending a year studying in Israel, remembered spending time with her Great-aunt Goldie. “Her visits were always about nature,” Elisheva said. “We would plant vegetables with her and she taught us how to garden. She helped instill in me a passion for the great outdoors.”
Shmuel Herschberg, Goldie’s grandnephew, remarked that “today, people are so wrapped up in their smartphones and social media. It’s so nice for the family to be here together at this special place in nature. I remember how Aunt Goldie would bring us strange instruments from India and take us to the beach as children. We visited her a year before her death, and she was so happy to see my children. The midrash says that planting trees is a very special thing to do, because the trees you plant are for future generations rather than for yourself. Aunt Goldie loved us all, we were all her children. The forest is a testament to her love of nature, her family and the land of Israel.”
See more photos of the dedication ceremony of the Beersheva forest