From Philadelphia to Israel
JNF America's Chai Fund Mission Connects with Israel
The Chai Fund Mission consists of about eighty men from Philadelphia, who meet a few times a year for shared activities on behalf of Israel and KKL-JNF. Joseph Wolfson
, the president of the group, explains that the goal is to encourage members to get involved with what's happening in Israel. "We initiate activities to strengthen the connection with Israel and to become familiar with KKL-JNF's unique contribution to the country. Our aim is to recruit additional members, in order to expand our sphere of influence and to strengthen the group."
A mission of ten members of the Fund visited Israel for five days of touring and learning about KKL-JNF projects in various fields: afforestation, water and tourism. The mission was geared for members who hadn't visited Israel previously and for those who hadn't been in the country for a long time since their last visit.The members of the mission visited many sites that were built and developed with the help of Friends of JNF America including: Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem
, a memorial for Israeli Army soldiers who fell in the battle to capture the hill from the Jordanian Army during the Six Day War; Aminadav Forest
, where they experienced the connection to the land by planting trees; Merhav Am
, a young community village in the Negev between Sde Boker and Yeruham; the Ramon Air Force Base
, where they enjoyed seeing the base's landscaping, which is irrigated by purified water from the water purification plant that was built here; Beersheva River Park
, an expansive urban park that serves as a change-inducing project for the entire region; Aleh Negev
, a rehabilitative village near Ofakim for children and teenagers with special needs; Sderot, where they visited the large Sderot
Indoor Recreation Center for the city's children, who for years could not play outside due to the security situation; the Atlit Illegal Immigration Camp
and the Aliya Bet museum commemorating illegal immigration to Israel in ships during the time of the British Mandate where they made the first tour ever on the Interactive Boat Museum, to be formally inaugurated on June 14, 2010; and Nahal Alexander
, where they learned about river restoration and creating hiking trails and recreation spots along the stream.Richard Cohen
, who will soon be replacing Joseph Wolfson as president: "We saw Israel from a different angle. We saw KKL-JNF's activities firsthand, and we were especially impressed by the positive reactions of Israel's residents. We didn't know that Israel's citizens were aware of KKL-JNF's activities, and we were glad to see that people are informed and very involved."
Members of the group included businessmen, doctors, lawyers and accountants. When asked how they found spare time during their very busy lives, Scott Persky resplied: "I guess Israel is in our blood. We are all busy people, many of us are also quite successful in business, and we feel that it is our duty to give something back to the community. As Jews, it is natural that we would want to contribute to Israel." As for joining the mission, Persky said: "I had visited Israel in the past, but not as part of a KKL-JNF mission. This time, I was fortunate to visit places that I would never have gotten to in any other framework, and to get to know Israel better, from a different perspective."
Persky described some of his experiences at the various sites: "During our visit to Beersheva River Park we saw a living example of how each of us can influence the lives of the local residents. At the air force base, we were very impressed by our meetings with the young combat pilots. At American Independence Park in the Judean Mountains, we understood to what degree people from all over the world connect to KKL-JNF activities. I personally discovered that my synagogue in Philadelphia contributes to KKL-JNF, and I didn't even know! At Merhav Am we saw how a new village is born, forty houses blossoming in the middle of nowhere."
said that he visited Israel a year and a half ago with his family, but now he was getting to know the country from a different perspective: "Last time I saw Israel through the eyes of my children. Now I'm seeing things from KKL-JNF's perspective, and it's a totally different experience. We visited sites we would never have gotten to on our own, like the air force base. We understood the important role KKL-JNF plays in developing the country."Larry Rappoport
joined the mission together with his 21 year-old son Luke
: "My son visited Israel last year, but I was never here before," Larry said. "I know very little about Israel, and I wanted to learn more. This was also a great opportunity to spend some time with my son. I was amazed to see that KKL-JNF was involved in so many projects, I didn't know how involved the organization was in developing Israel."
Luke: "I was the first one from my family to visit Israel. I wanted to
come here because it was important for me to connect to my Jewish
heritage. You hear a lot about how the older generation tries to get
their children more involved in what's happening in Israel. In our
family, the process was exactly the opposite – I was the one who told
my father how important it was, and I convinced him to join me on a
visit to Israel." When asked if it didn't bother him to be with people
who are all older than him, he replied: "It doesn't bother me at all,
quite the opposite. This is a group of really intelligent people, with
a lot of wisdom and life experience, and I'm learning a lot from them."
The highpoint, as far as Luke is concerned, was meeting the pilots at
the air force base: "I realized that they were more or less my age, and
that was a moving and special experience."Bob Lipstein
impressed by Israel's pioneering spirit: "The people we met during our
visit made a very strong impression on me, and I absolutely want to
connect to this pioneer spirit. From the air force pilots to meeting a
girl who had made aliya from New York – we met fascinating people here,
people who are motivated by a truly unique spirit."
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