(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On a warm spring morning, friends and family of the Kirsh family gathered in Aminadav Forest, which is located in the hills just outside of Jerusalem, to dedicate a forest grove in honor of South African-born businessman and philanthropist Natie Kirsh, his wife Frances, and their family.
The grove, part of a KKL-JNF project to restore a forested area that was destroyed last year by a fire, was donated in honor of the Kirsh family by the Magal Security Systems. Guests included Magal chairman of the board of directors Ya’acov Perry, former director of the Israeli General Security Service; Eitan Livneh, director general of Magal Security Systems; former Herzlyia Mayor Eli Landau with whom Natie Kirsh worked together to build the Herzlyia Marina; and former Rehovot Mayor Shuki Forer.
Michael Ben Abu, director of KKL-JNF Israel Fundraising Department, warmly greeted the Kirsh family, including the children - Wendy Fisher, Linda Mirels and Philip Kirsh - and grandchildren David, Deborah and Justine Fisher. Prior to the dedication ceremony Ben Abu showed Natie Kirsh the results of last year’s fire, which left blackened areas with burnt trees. Natie Kirsh listened attentively as Ben Abu explained how KKL-JNF was working together with nature to allow the stronger saplings to flourish and grow.
At the beginning of the ceremony Ben Abu welcomed the guests, noting that KKL-JNF has been planting trees in Israel for the last 110 years: “So far we have planted over 240,000,000 million trees throughout Israel." Ben Abu also noted that during its centennial year, KKL-JNF was the recipient of the prestigious Israel prize for its unique contribution to society and its ecological and environmental projects, including fighting desertification and global warming.
“I believe that a tree is a symbol of life and of the past, present, and future,” Ben Abu said. “You are here with your family, your children and grandchildren. A tree has roots that are its strong and solid base, it has a trunk, which is like your children who symbolize the present, and it has branches which bear fruits for the future, which is like your grandchildren.”
Ya'akov Perry also greeted the Kirsh family, mentioning that the idea to plant a forest grove in their honor was proposed by friends and business associates during a celebration marking Kirsh’s 51 years of business. Kirsh’s interests in Israel include a business partnership in the Magal Security Systems with long time associate and friend Kobi Even Ezra.
“When hearing about Natie’s fascinating business and personal history, one cannot help but admire the activity, the initiative, the ability to overcome and the creativity that are the defining characteristics of his intensive, worldwide activity,” said Perry. “Over the years and to this day, the Kirsh family’s activities were always intertwined with Zionism, both prior and also after the establishment of the state of Israel.”
"Kirsh," said Perry, "is a caring person, who leaves nothing to chance and who knows how to be a friend through thick and thin. Kirsh was very much involved in giving and donating to the community in Israel, but always modestly and secretly. Magal’s board, management, and employees wish to thank you, Natie, and express their great appreciation and gratitude. All of us, your friends and Magal employees, have made this donation to support the restoration of a burned forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem in your honor, a small and symbolic token of our appreciation.”
After Kirsh unveiled the plaque honoring his family, Ben Abu presented him with an honorary framed certificate commemorating the planting of the grove as well as an additional certificate from Robert Schneider, Chief Executive of KKL-JNF Australia, in the name of former South African friends of Kirsh now living in Australia.
Natie Kirsh expressed his gratitude to everyone present for the dedication of the
“I would like to thank all of you who took the time to attend this ceremony honoring Frances and myself. We really do appreciate it. It is very heartwarming to come back to Israel and to see so many old friends. It is always a great pleasure to be creative and helpful, and we are very thankful that we have this ability. Frances and I often speak about how fortunate we are to be able to participate in the community and help make life better for other people.
"Looking out towards the horizon, one can see how much difference the planting of forests makes. Everything has improved so wonderfully. Congratulations to KKL –JNF for this project, which has taken so many years. I first heard about KKL-JNF's work when we were all children, and I know that KKL-JNF still has a lot of work to do in the future,” he concluded.
The group boarded buses that took them deeper into the forest, where saplings of carob, pistachio, oak and Judas trees - all native to the area - were waiting to be planted. Following the reciting of the Planter’s Prayer read in English by granddaughter Deborah Fisher and in Hebrew by Perry, Natie and Frances Kirsh and their friends enthusiastically planted the saplings in the soon-to-be restored forest grove.
“What a lovely thing, to have a grove planted here in Israel,” said Frances after finishing planting several of the saplings together with her granddaughters.
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