The Family Landau De Vries Park, a Forest Park in the Desert.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Those were the words of Tjitte de Vries at the dedication of the Family Landau De Vries Park in the Ashan Forest section of the Be’er Sheva Green Belt
project. The dedication ceremony took place at the KKL-JNF David Nahmias Center in Gilat
in the Western Negev, in the presence of the extended De Vries-Landau family that arrived from Holland, Israel and the United States.
Tjitte de Vries said that the idea to create a family park in Israel probably started on his 16th birthday when his father presented him with a KKL-JNF tree certificate in his name.
“I chose the name ‘Family Landau De Vries Park’ to honor my parents Lyia Landau, and Gerrit de Vries, and their respective families.
“I chose the location of the park in honor of my father Gerrit who was a keen supporter of Israel, and always happy to visit our family who live here. He was a devout Christian who read the bible everyday and had a good knowledge of the layout of the holy land
. Father was also very impressed by Israeli agricultural development in desert areas. He saw with his own eyes the manifestation of the biblical verse of Isaiah, which says that the desert shall bloom again as a rose”.
Philip de Vries, the younger brother of Tjitte, explained that during the holocaust their mother Lyia was given refuge in the De Vries family home in Holland and subsequently married Gerrit, the son of her hosts and protectors.
“We grew up as Christians, but while we all knew we had Jewish roots, our mother did not talk about her past. However, one day some 20 years ago when my eldest daughter, Rebecca, questioned mother in connection with a school project, mother began to talk, and the stories came pouring out. She revealed that during the war she worked as a kindergarten teacher and took advantage of her position to smuggle Jewish children to safety. From then on mother became very involved in holocaust education in the Netherlands.”
After unveiling a plaque in their name at the KKL-JNF David Nahmias Center, the family travelled in KKL-JNF all-terrain vehicles to the site of the new park some 20 kilometers away. They were met by KKL-JNF Director for the Western Negev Region, Danny Ben David, who proudly showed them the young saplings that were growing there.
“This park is in its very initial stages, and is part of a 40 thousand dunam belt that we have been planting over the last 10 years. The green belt of forests and parks around Beer Sheva not only provides beauty and recreation for the residents of the area, but is also changing weather patterns in the region, causing more rainfall and precipitation, preventing desertification and halting soil erosion. As a Beer Sheva resident I can testify that, thanks to this effort, there is less environmental dust in my home today than there was in the past”.
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