(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"This is an amazing spot to visit in the different seasons, the scenery changes dramatically. Now, as you see, it's golden brown, while in the winter, after the rains, it looks like Ireland." Daniela Lebensart, community manager of Kibbutz Kramim in the Negev, was showing the magnificent view to Gary and Sharon Hendler of Sydney, Australia at the dedication ceremony of the scenic lookout that their generous contribution had made possible. "This is the northern end of the 800 meter eco-path that we are creating, which will go from here to the kibbutz. From here we see KKL-JNF's Lavi Forest, one of the biggest planted forests in Israel. In the future, when we bring groups here for workshops, we'll begin at the scenic lookout, sitting in the shade of the olive tree you'll be planting.
"Kibbutz Kramim was founded thirty years ago, one of the last kibbutzim to be erected by the Hashomer Hatzair movement," Daniela continued. "For many years, there were only twenty members, and the kibbutz simply didn't grow. About six years ago, the kibbutz appointed a committee to find new members, and two groups applied. One was comprised of people with a green agenda, while the other wanted to realize the ideal of secular and religious people living together in harmony. Both groups were from cities in Israel's central region who wanted to live in a quieter environment and help settle the Negev.
"At first, it seemed like there would be a need to choose one group over the other, since both had different ideals. However, what we discovered was that we really liked each other on a personal level, and what's more, each group also identified with the other's ideals, so we decided to all move here together and embrace each other's vision. With the help of an organizational consultant, we have become one cohesive entity dedicated to sustainable development, social activism and Negev development. We have grown from 20 to 100 members over five years, we have a waiting list and plans to double. Our members include doctors who work at the local Soroka Hospital, hi-tech people, nurses, social workers, lawyers and people who work in alternative medicine."
Along with Yoram, Kramim's business manager, Daniela invited Gary to plant the olive tree, which Sharon noted was Gary's favorite tree. Debby Rulnick, who is responsible for groups visiting Kramim, said that "in the future, the olive tree you have just planted will grow and give shade to the groups who will be learning here about ecology and the desert.”
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