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"About a month ago, around the time of Israel Independence Day, I was in Europe with two friends, giving Jewish children in many different countries a taste of Israel by telling them about Israel's history and life in our country today. When I was in DÃ¼sseldorf, the children there made greeting cards with blessings for you and for Israel, and today, after our special activities, we'll be making cards to send back to them."
Hadar Epstein, Head of KKL-JNF's Educational Projects, Overseas department, was talking to a group of fourth-graders at Jerusalem's Yehuda Halevi elementary school. During her sixteen-day visit to Frankfort, DÃ¼sseldorf, Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, Istanbul and Izmir, she worked together with the European Council for Jewish Communities (ECJC) and KKL-JNF's Maof program educating Jewish children about Israel and Jewish history.
Hadar asked the children to draw maps of Israel, and then she unrolled a huge unmarked cloth map of the country, which the children sat around. She asked them the names of different cities and regions, and whoever answered correctly marked the spot on the map. For example, when she asked what city is considered the capital of the Negev, Ayelet, answered "Beersheba," marking Beersheba on the map.
When the map was full, Hadar told the children that the KKL-JNF logo included three colors - brown, green and blue. "Why brown?" she asked, and the answer was quick to come. "Brown is for the earth," said Yossi, "because KKL takes care of the land and also bought it for the Jewish people." "And why green?" Hadar continued. "That's easy," answered Yuval. "It's for the trees KKL plants, like in Yatir Forest where we went on Pessach." "Not just trees," Ruti joined in. "It's also for keeping Israel green and making bicycle paths." "And," Hadar went on, "last but not least, what is the blue for?" "Water," many voices answered all at once, "for the reservoirs that help us save water." "Not only," Hadar added. "It's also for Israel's streams, which are polluted and which are being restored by KKL-JNF."
Before they began writing greeting cards for the children in Germany, the children tried to make an Israeli flag out of their shoes, which, although it didn't exactly look like anything similar to a flag, at least made the children very happy.
Eschar Bitan and Gilad Efstein told us about what they wanted to tell the children in Germany: "I want them to know about all the places in Israel," Eschar said, "and that Israel is beautiful, and that we don't have enough water, so we save it." "When I shower," Gilad added, "I finish really fast and don't leave the water on. The children in Germany should come visit us - we want to invite them to visit us at Yehuda Halevi School."
Shelly, Lital, Almanash and Na'ama also wanted the children from DÃ¼sseldorf to come visit. "Maybe they'll come if they know that the children here are very sociable," Lital said. "And also that there are lots of trees in Israel," Shelly added. "Trees they can see anywhere," Almanash disagreed. "Here though, we have the Kotel, the Western Wall, where they can put papers with prayers written on them." "And if they're afraid of the wars and the missiles," Na'ama reassured us, "they can come to us here in Jerusalem and we'll take care of them."
Sari Tavor, the school vice-principle, said that it was important for the children to realize that there were children like them who lived in different parts of the world with whom it was possible to be in contact. "This is a very important educational activity. We share a lot of goals with KKL-JNF so working together comes naturally for us. Yehuda Halevi was declared a 'green school' and our students are very aware of recycling, protecting flora and fauna, and saving water. The Maof project and today's KKL-JNF activities are perfect examples of the values we hope the children will internalize."