(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
When they landed in Israel, the members of the 400-strong Australian delegation did not rush straight to their hotel rooms to recover from the 28-hour flight that had carried them from one end of the world to the other: they went out to plant trees instead! After landing at Ben Gurion Airport in the early hours of the morning they headed straight for KKL-JNF’s planting center in Nahshon Forest, and the sun obliged by rising just a few minutes prior to their arrival.
By planting trees in Israeli soil these Australian athletes reminded everyone of the spirit embodied in the Maccabiah: the connection between Diaspora Jews and Israel. This has likewise been the KKL-JNF spirit throughout all the years of its activity, and tree-planting is one of the very best ways to express it.
“We have a years-long connection with KKL-JNF,” said Lisa Borowick, President of Maccabi Australia. “Planting a tree is the best possible Israeli welcome, and I’m sure we’ll have many victories here in the days to come, that we’ll make new friends and have unforgettable experiences.”
Every four years, thousands of athletes come to Israel to compete in the various sporting events in what has become known as the “Jewish Olympics.” The 19th Maccabiah Games, for which the venue this time is Jerusalem, will be bigger than ever before, with over 9,000 athletes competing from seventy-two countries worldwide.
“Our aim is to connect with Israel and our Jewish brethren throughout the world,” explained Harry Procel, head of the Australian delegation. “It’s important for us to be good ambassadors for the Australian Jewish community – and to win medals, too, of course. Taking part in the Maccabiah is an experience that the members of the delegation will remember all their lives.”
“I’m always happy to come to Israel,” said rugby player Rael Shakenovsky. “And I’m also glad of the opportunity to contribute something to nature by planting a tree here.”
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