(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
After a visit to the KKL-JNF head offices in Jerusalem, Unni and Janove Folgero, the new co-presidents of KKL-JNF Norway, spent Sunday, July 18, visiting KKL-JNF Norway sites in the Judean Mountains. The couple, who are in Israel with their two sons, Daniel (15.5) and Simon (14), were accompanied by Judith Perl-Strasser, head of KKL-JNF's Scandinavian Desk. "We have been "presidents" since May 2010," Janove said with a smile. "At that time, Ruth Rothschild, the previous president, decided to step down and asked us to take over, and since we both love KKL-JNF equally, we both became president."
The family's first stop was at the Norwegian Kings Forest, where Judith explained that the monument used to be located on the opposite hill: "It was very hard to get to the former location, so we moved the monument here, where it is much more accessible. As you see, the trees here are very young, because there was a huge fire in 1995, and the original forest, which was fifty years old, burned down. KKL-JNF planted this forest in honor of the Norwegian king and queens. It's practically a KKL-JNF tradition to plant forests in honor of European royalty in Israel."Together with Judith, the Folgeros were considering various projects that might be promoted in Norway. Judith showed them the donor appreciation columns at nearby Haportzim Recreation Area, and she explained that KKL-JNF policy had recently changed regarding the location of donor's appreciation plaques: "We used to erect a stone in the forest grove that the donor had contributed, but over time we found that it was difficult for the donors to navigate their way to the site in the forest. Our present policy is to create a central donor's appreciation center in each forest, at a site easily accessible for every type of vehicle. We recently had a ceremony here dedicating a forest grove in honor of Louis Levinsky, the president of KKL-JNF Finland. It was sort of strange, because he couldn’t be here due to the volcanic cloud that shut down air traffic at the time, but thanks to modern technology, he sat in a café in Helsinki and participated via his cellphone."
"In fact," Unni said, "we also have a forest grove that we had planted right after we got married. It's located in Yatir Forest in the south, and we would love to go visit it, even if it's hard to get to. Our connection to Israel goes way back - Janove and I met in Israel at Kibbutz Givat Brenner, where I was volunteering."
The next stop was the Norwegian Martyrs' Forest Recreation Area in Martyrs Forest, which was planted in memory of the Norwegian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust and named for Rabbi Isak Samuel. "About half of Norway's Jews were deported to Germany," Janove explained. "The other half managed to run away to Sweden. Although the Norwegian government did nothing to save Norwegian Jewry, there were many individuals who risked their lives to save Jews."
Janove was very moved to discover a memorial plaque for a Norwegian Jew by the name of Moritz Rabinowitz. "I know this man's story, he lived very close to where I grew up as a child and I always felt a connection to him. He owned a textile company and was very successful, which I believe made a lot of people jealous. He was very active in the Jewish community, and when the Germans came, they already had his name on their list. If I am not mistaken, a movie was made about him."
Unni and Janove spoke about how they got involved with KKL-JNF and about their vision for the future of KKL-JNF Norway: "Besides planting a forest grove when we got married, we always tried to help with whatever needed getting done at the KKL-JNF office. Now, as co-presidents, we are definitely facing some interesting challenges. In the Jewish community, much of KKL-JNF's support came from the previous generation, many of them Holocaust survivors. The younger generation does not have the same awareness of the centrality of Israel and KKL-JNF.
"Our current data base in Norway includes 1400 people, many of them non-Jewish. The older generation was connected to Israel mainly for religious reasons. For them, the Jewish people's rebirth in their ancient homeland was a fulfillment of biblical prophecies. Many of them visited Israel, particularly during the Sukkot holiday, and many of them planted trees in KKL-JNF forests.
"As we see it, we have two main goals: One is to get the younger Jewish
community more involved. The Jewish community in Norway is alive and
vibrant, and has a strong sense of Jewish identity. Two: to make it
easier to be in contact with KKL-JNF. We've already opened a page on
Facebook, which has become quite popular. We also plan to create a
KKL-JNF Norway website. There definitely are educated young people out
there who are interested in what KKL-JNF is doing.
"One thing that makes our job of promoting KKL-JNF a little bit easier
is that it's not about politics, a very touchy topic in present-day
Europe. Ecology and care for the environment is very important for
young people today, and that's what KKL-JNF is about. Judith, who has
been simply wonderful, suggested that we choose a couple projects that
KKL-JNF Norway would sponsor. We're thinking about water projects in
the north, and creating a green belt around Beersheva in the south.
"There's no doubt that we have quite a challenge in front of us, but we
believe it can be met. And one of the best things about being
co-presidents of KKL-JNF Norway is that we'll have lots of excuses to
come visit Israel, the country we love so much."
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