peres with italian 248.
(photo credit: )
Despite the fact that it was a spontaneous meeting, heads of KKL-JNF Italy visited President Shimon Peres in his home on his 86th birthday. The group met President Peres to exchange greetings and there was visible excitement among members of the small group when they entered the drawing room in which numerous world leaders have been hosted by Israel's presidents. Some members of the group were of Peres' generations, while others were two generations younger.
President Peres utilized the opportunity to express "genuine gratitude," as he put it. "I wish to express genuine gratitude to KKL-JNF members of staff, who took upon themselves the renovations of the garden of the presidential home. Go outside and see for yourselves! Unlike other palaces of other heads of state, there is no silver and gold here - and that is not by chance. We thought that this garden - and not the house - is the true palace. This concept is similar to the basic concept of KKL-JNF - which has taken upon itself the task of making the entire country a garden of trees and flowers. As such, there is an additional contribution to the principle of equality amongst all people, which implies that people everywhere first and foremost have the right to breathe clean air. At a time when asphalt and concrete are over-running the country, KKL-JNF is over-running the concrete and transforming sites into places of beauty. I am grateful to you for this from the depths of my heart."
The intimate meeting was opened with remarks by Efi Stenzler KKL-JNF World Chairman who expressed his thanks to President Peres for agreeing to meet the Italian KKL-JNF leadership and who wished the President many more years of health and activity.
Knowing that President Peres understands Italian, Raffaele Sassun, President of KKL-JNF Italy, chose to speak in Italian about the activities of KKL-JNF in Italy and its strong connections with Israel. Sassun explained the importance he and his colleagues attribute to their meeting with President Peres and expressed their admiration. "President Peres, first of all I would like to wish you a happy birthday, and thank you for your willingness to host us in your home today. This gesture is extremely significant for us. I have had the honor and the pleasure of meeting President Peres upon many opportunities, the first of which was in Rome several years ago. Since then many things have occurred and many changes have taken place - but on the other hand nothing has changed! President Peres has not changed: - he is as wise and prophetic as always. The admiration of Jews in the Diaspora for President Peres has not changed and we still feel pride that Peres is the President of the State of Israel. The deadlock in the conflict with our neighbors has not changed and our desire to achieve peace has not changed. KKL-JNF constitutes a bridge to peace through all of its activities in Israel and abroad, in the areas of water, forestation, halting desertification and new technologies serving many countries throughout the world."
Raffaele Sassun and Efi Stenzler presented President Peres with a modest gift in the name of KKL-JNF and the delegation of leaders of KKL-JNF Italy. Stenzler summarized, "We wish the President success in his coming visit as guest of the President of Russia. We are certain that wherever President Peres goes, he speaks for the entire Jewish People."
Several young faces stood out in the small group - the result of new initiatives on the part of Raffaele Sassun, President of KKL-JNF Italy to mobilize new people to lead the organization. One figure standing out - not only owing to his height - was the smiling and energetic Gabrielle Illis, 34, from Milan, who, together with his colleague Angelo de-Porto from Rome, represents the young spirit of KKL-JNF Italy. Gabrielle Illis, a marketing expert who defines himself as passionate about creative writing, decided to accept Raffaele Sassun's invitation out of curiosity. "I come from a family that was always active on behalf of KKL-JNF so when the proposal came I jumped at the opportunity, although I am still undecided in how exactly, I would like to remain involved in KKL-JNF - possibly on the organizational level and certainly in strategic thinking regarding the message the organization wishes to convey and the working methods it will use in the community."
Rafi Ovadia, the KKL-JNF emissary to Italy, explained that the visit with President Peres was particularly important because of the presence of the young generation. "This meeting with the President is an offering of respect to the coming generation of KKL-JNF Italy and the motivation for promoting various projects in Israel. Members of KKL-JNF in Italy have been helping to establish the settlement of Halutzit for the evacuees of Gush Katif over the past two years and Italian Jewry generally is very involved and supportive. Although the present group of KKL-JNF Italy leaders is here in Israel on a private visit, we are all happy that the tour included visits to several places where our community has been directly involved such as the site where Halutzit is being established and the city of Sderot."
At the end of the meeting with President Peres the group went out to the garden of the presidential home for a short tour and photograph in the shade of the ancient olive trees in the garden.
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