(photo credit: KKL)
Contributions Create Change in the Northern Region
Biriya Fortress is the site of a historical settlement that became an educational center for youth, where they learn about an important chapter in the history of the struggle to create a Jewish state. Participants at KKL-JNF's World Leadership Conference (WLC) visited the site and heard its story.The fortress, which is located in Biriya Forest near Tzfat, was built in 1945 by members of the religious Palmach on a hill surrounded by hostile Arab villages. The British forces expelled the settlers by force and imprisoned them. In response, 3,500 young people thronged to the spot, thereby ensuring that it would not be taken down.
Today, the site serves as a museum, which attracts many visitors. KKL-JNF helped restore the site, with the help of various communities, including friends of KKL-JNF from France and Canada.
Frank Wilson, president of JNF Canada, made a personal contribution towards the restoration of the fortresses' watchtower, and this was his first visit to the site since work on it was completed: "There is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing this completed project. Along with the historical and educational importance of the site, the fact that it is a magnet for visitors and contributes to the local economy is especially meaningful for me."
The mission participants met Dr. Omri Boneh, director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, who described a number of the important projects that KKL-JNF is furthering in this region, including "Islands of Caves" – an impressive caves site; Tchelet Valley Park, with the support of KKL-JNF Canada; the Dalton-Gush Halav trail, with the support of KKL-JNF Chile; a promenade at the entrance to Biriya Forest, with the support of KKL-JNF Mexico; among others.
"All these projects prove that contributions from KKL-JNF's friends from all over the world create a real change in the lives of the people who live in this region," Boneh said. "Your contributions make it possible to receive additional allocations from the government and local authorities, which enables us to develop extensive projects."
Aviram Zuk, KKL-JNF director of the Upper Galilee region, presented one of KKL-JNF's most important projects in the region to conference participants – the Path of the Tzaddikim (Righteous). This is a scenic road that will connect between the many tombs of tzaddikim that are scattered in this area, passing through Hatzor, Biriya, Ein Zeitim and Meron.
Along the way, KKL-JNF developed various attractions for visitors: parks, hiking trails, leisure corners, tree orchards and terraces that reconstruct ancient agricultural techniques. About a million visitors make pilgrimages to these tombs annually, and KKL-JNF decided to be part of this unique experience.
The delegation drove by yet another unique project on the outskirts of Biriya Forest – a charming promenade that was built with the support of friends of KKL-JNF from Mexico. The outgoing president and incoming president of KKL-JNF Mexico participated in the visit. Moshe Shema, the outgoing president: "This is a wonderful way to end my tenure, by meeting KKL-JNF representatives from all over the world, here in Israel. Among all the many projects that we supported, there is one that I am especially proud of - building a clubhouse at the Israel Navy base in Ashdod where soldiers and their parents can meet."
The incoming president, Danny Shor, noted that Mexico has a very Zionist Jewish community: 96% of all the students go to Jewish schools, and by age 20, 80% of the youngsters have already visited Israel. Every school has a KKL-JNF Blue Box, and they are now planning to also put Blue Boxes in people's homes.
Shor: "Fundraising is not just something we do, but also an educational way of transmitting the message to the younger generation, so they will understand just how important supporting Israel is. Of course, this visit, during which we are seeing so many of KKL-JNF's projects, including those that we supported, connects us to Israel in an entirely different way."
From Biriya Forest, conference participants continued to the Dalton Winery, where they enjoyed visiting the winery and tasting some excellent Israeli wines.
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