(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
In the burning Jerusalem early summer sun, friends, guests and
representatives of KKL-JNF and JNF USA assembled on Sunday, June 20, at
the foot of the 9/11 memorial in Arazim Valley, for a ceremony honoring
the donor, Ed Blank, whose contribution made this site possible.
Blank was very moved to see the completed commemorative site and the
impressive bronze statue at its center. He warmly thanked KKL-JNF and
JNF USA for the privilege of participating in this unique project,
along with expressing his gratitude to everyone involved in building
and creating the site. When he last visited here, work on the site was
at its peak, so this was the first time he saw the magnificent site in
all its glory, in the heart of the breathtaking vistas of Arazim
Valley. As he said at the time; "I find it hard to believe that it's
finally a reality. I hope that the residents of Jerusalem, along with
visitors and tourists from all over the world, will come here. Not only
to remember the past, but also to sit quietly and to think about the
message of tolerance the memorial strives to impart."
Ed Blank's wish has come true and many visitors from all over Israel
and worldwide visit this site and are duly impressed by its dignified
form as they silently commune with the memory of the thousands of
victims whose names are engraved around the monument.
Dickstein, director of KKL-JNF's Resources and Development Department,
warmly congratulated Ed Blank for his generous contribution, which
enable/d the building of a memorial site for the victims of 9/11.
Dickstein presented Mr. Blank a unique Bible embossed with a relief of
Jerusalem and a dedication by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler and
the heads of JNF USA, Mr. Stanley Chesley, Mr. Ronald Lauder and Mr.
Bob Levine, vice president for education of
JNF USA, who attended the ceremony with his wife Helen, congratulated
Ed Blank for his determination and dedication to the project and its
implementation. As if to prove his point, chance visitors to the site
who saw the ceremony taking place approached Mr. Blank and thanked him.
They added that the Jerusalem Mountains seemed like the perfect place
to build such a memorial.
After the dedication ceremony, Ed
Blank and Bob Levine laid wreaths of flowers at the foot of the
memorial, and Bob Levine recited the El Malei Rahamim prayer. Together
with Avi Dickstein and Yehiel Cohen, deputy director of KKL-JNF's
Central Region, who was in charge of the actual building of the
project, Ed Blank unveiled the appreciation plaque, obviously moved.
The ceremony concluded with the planting of a young oak tree at the
site by Mr. Blank, who watered it tenderly.
We had an
opportunity to speak with Ed Blank after the ceremony. "I wanted to
support this project because I believe in the idea of peace and
harmony," he said. "I lost my wife at the time of 9/11, and I felt that
this was a way to both honor my wife and also those families whose
loved ones perished in this disaster. This was my first opportunity to
see the completed site. The sculpture looks as I had imagined it when I
saw the plans, but it is so much more dramatic to see it in its
setting, surrounded by the mountains of Jerusalem. It is impossible to
visualize just how powerful a sight this is without being here. It is
simply awe-inspiring. The sculpture itself is magnificent. When you
walk around it, each side gives you a new perspective.
credit for this project should really go to KKL-JNF, JNF USA, the
sculptor and the architect, who all did such a tremendous job. I was
honored to plant a tree after the ceremony, which I felt was a very
appropriate thing to do, because that's what KKL-JNF has been doing
since its inception. All in all, I think my feelings are best summed up
by the inscription on the tablet at the site, which is a quote from a
speech I made at a ceremony that took place in June 2009: "A reminder
of shared loss, and a call for peace among nations."
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