(photo credit: )
Ben Gurion's vision of populating the Negev and making it green is being realized daily through various projects KKL-JNF has established and promoted in this region - with help of friends worldwide. An Australian mission recently came on a five-day visit to KKL-JNF sites across Israel. This is the third year that KKL-JNF Australia has participated in activities of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council in the Negev, which has vast undeveloped lands but is located in the only part of Israel that receives no water from the Dan Region Association for Sewage Disposal and therefore must cope with difficult water shortages.
KKL-JNF Australia of Sydney & Melbourne, together with KKL-JNF Israel, have made a strategic decision to form a new leadership group from the younger generation of the Jewish community to familiarize them with KKL-JNF's projects in Israel. This group of leaders will hopefully share the knowledge they acquire in Israel with their community, inspiring envoys to realize further diverse projects and further cooperation between Israel and Australia. In this context, the Australian mission recently met with Joe Krycer, Director of the KKL-JNF Victoria, Australia, and Shalom Norman, an erstwhile KKL-JNF shaliah who is the group's guide.
We met Steven Casper and Simone Szalmuk-Singer, both lawyers, and Wayne Krongold, who manages a construction company and represents the young leadership of Melbourne, a 30-35 age group. These three members of the mission used to be active in the Jewish Student Union at their university and now that they have established families and careers, they have come to see for themselves what KKL-JNF is doing throughout Israel and particularly in the Negev.
The mission's visit to the Negev began at the Air Force Base in Hatzerim, near Kibbutz Hatzerim, a dynamic air force base in the Middle East that also includes the Israel Air Force School and the IAF Museum. At that base, members of the mission were shown round the Effluents Purification Project. The project, implemented jointly by KKL-JNF, Kibbutz Hatzeirim, the air force base and the regional council, answers the needs for dealing with environmental hazards. Effluents purification provides 250,000 cubic meters of new water reserves for this arid region, helping the irrigation of the kibbutz jojoba plantations. This is a model of collaboration between military, municipal, civilian populations and KKL-JNF. For the army, forging a bond with Diaspora Jewry is of especial importance.
At Kibbutz Hatzerim, west of Beersheba, and part of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, the members of the mission met Nati Barak, CEO of the Netafim industry, whose plant is considered a leader in Israel and globally, in irrigation systems. Nati Barak told the group about the establishment of the kibbutz and its difficulties with water supplies and with finding agricultural products suitable for the region. This challenge led them to develop agriculture-related industry. Another main branch of the kibbutz is its jojoba plantation, which covers an area of 2,300 dunams (about 600 acres). Oil used primarily by cosmetics industries is produced from the jojobas. The members of the mission were highly impressed by the cultivation of jojoba trees in the arid land of the Negev.
The mission also visited Duda'im, a unique center that combines an active waste management site and a learning center for environmental issues. The site began operating in 1990 and serves as a waste treatment site mainly for southern Israel. It processes about a thousand tons of waste per day. KKL-JNF, the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Tourism, committed themselves to promoting environmental education through visits to this site and explanations of the way it works. For example, as part of the process of composting organic materials, gaseous emissions are collected and used as fuel for the first green power station. The members of the mission had the privilege of being taken on an active tour of the site. They inquired about the industrial recycling plant and especially about its educational aspect of actively involving local schoolchildren in recycling.
Another challenge that KKL-JNF Australia and the Bnei Shimon Regional Council have taken upon themselves, is to expand Negev settlement. The regional council's extensive land reserves and the support of friends of KKL-JNF throughout the world enabled the establishment of the village of Givot Bar, the thirteenth village for this regional council, a secular, rural community founded in 2004. It is populated mainly by young couples who are professionally independent. The members of the mission received a firsthand view of how a barren hill had been transformed into a flourishing village.
When they visited the Mevo'ot Hanegev regional school in Kibbutz Shoval, the members of the mission heard from the principal about the ecological projects that the children learn about and apply in their environment.
At the end of the day's riveting tour, Steven, Simone and Wayne described their impressions and ideas in building ties with Israel - particularly important for their generation. They especially emphasized the creation and development of future infrastructures that could be jointly undertaken by the Jewish community and the Bnei Shimon Regional Council.
According to Steven, unlike his parents, who have contributed - and continue to contribute - towards the immediate needs of the State of Israel, especially state security and special circumstances such as Russian immigration, their generation wants involvement in projects close to their heart such as water supply, with which they are familiar from Australia. Simone sees the importance of populating the Negev as a practical solution for Israel's population increase. In her opinion, Israel is realizing its potential through unique solutions such as the water industries that KKL-JNF Australia has participated in building. "The Negev is inspiring," Simone said in the name of all at the conclusion of the tour.
Joe Krycer concluded the tour by saying that young people these days know about Israel through the news media and he would like to show them Israel's positive side, so that they realize that Israel is not a place where only catastrophes happen. He also felt that the tour created warm relationships between generations. They specifically chose projects in the field of education connected to water - in order to understand concepts of water recycling in Israel. Water means life. Encouraging and creating infrastructures connected to water, leads to the creation of jobs in the Negev, which in turn leads to an increase in population in a process of long-term mutual involvement between communities. Krycer hopes that as a result of the tour, the mission will influence young families to become actively involved with KKL-JNF Australia.
KKL-JNF Australia invests in projects with environmental significance and concentrates efforts in creating processes of change and growth in the Negev, focusing especially in the field of developing water resources in Israel. This includes the KKL-JNF Research & Development Center in the Arava, which facilitates the creation of new and innovative agriculture. KKL-JNF Australia views the Bnei Shimon region as the broadest base in Israel for offering opportunities for alternative lifestyles and reasonable conditions for high quality of living.
For more information, please visit our website at www.kkl.org.il/eng or e-mail email@example.com