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On Tuesday, June 9 the newly restored Mount Scopus Botanical Garden was dedicated at a ceremony held at Nicanor Courtyard on the northeastern slope of Mount Scopus. The restoration of the garden, a joint project of KKL-JNF and the Hebrew University, was enabled through the generous support of Stephen and Gail Victor of Ottawa, Canada. The renewal and conservation project was carried out during 2007-2009 according to plans by Ran Morin.
The President of Hebrew University, Profesor Menachem Megidor, spoke about the significance of the Mount Scopus Botanical Garden. "This botanical garden documents the flora of the land of Israel and symbolizes our return to our ancient homeland. A major part of the Zionist enterprise is to study our country's past together with building its future and we are grateful to Stephen and Gail Victor for enabling us to realize this vision.
"I would also like to express my warm appreciation to KKL-JNF, our partners in this project. This is not the only area in which KKL-JNF and the Hebrew University cooperate: - we also collaborate through the Faculty of Agriculture, iner alia. Not many are aware that there is an important historical connection between KKL-JNF and the Hebrew University. Zvi Hermann Shapira, who suggested the creation of the Jewish National Fund at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, also recommended founding the Hebrew University at the same Congress. The KKL-JNF became responsible for acquiring the physical Land of Israel, while the Hebrew University aimed to provide the academic foundations of the future Jewish homeland. I feel a close, personal connection to Zvi Hermann Shapira - I grew up in Givat Shapira, a moshav named after this great visionary and I am also a mathematician, as he was.
"I would like to thank Ran Morin, KKL-JNF and the Hebrew University staff for renovating this site so beautifully and I would like to express my gratitude to Stephen and Gail Victor, our dear friends from Canada, for making this project possible."
KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Menachem Lebovic compared the planting of the botanical garden to the planting of the Garden of Eden. "When God planted the Garden of Eden, he instructed man "to work the earth and tend it." This is our job today, to develop and nurture the land of Israel. The Mount Scopus Botanical Garden is a microcosm of Israel's flora, where desert plants and rain plants co-exist with species that are in danger of extinction.
"KKL-JNF was one of the first organizations in Israel to realize the importance of Nature for humanity and the need to study it to improve our quality of life. Today we celebrate the renewal of an old dream, the oldest dream on earth - the dream of harmony between body, soul and Nature in this site which is particularly significant for KKL-JNF. The first chairman of KKL-JNF Menachem Ussishkin, is buried here, in Nicanor's Tomb, with Yehudah Leib Pinsker, another great Zionist leader. On behalf of KKL-JNF, I, too, thank Stephen and Gail Victor for bringing about the renaissance of this historical site and for their endless love and dedication to the land of Israel."
The V.P. & Director General of the Hebrew University, Elhanan Hacohen, reviewed the history of the botanical garden and remarked that working with Stephen Victor on this project had been a real pleasure. "In 1931, the Hebrew University decided to plant this botanical garden in the Nicanor plot, where Nicanor of Alexandria, who donated the copper doors of the eastern gate of the Second Temple, is interred. Dr. Alexander Eig, the founder of the Botanical Garden, decided to take advantage of local vegetation that adapts naturally to difficult local conditions and that was a very pioneering idea in such a dry region bordering on the Judean Desert. When Jerusalem was divided in 1948, the garden was abandoned but after the restoration that was carried out in collaboration with KKL-JNF during the 1970s, the garden was reopened to the public in 1988, although it did not achieve its former glory. Thanks to the vision of Stephen and Gail Victor, the Hebrew University and KKL-JNF collaborated once again to restore and renew the garden and now that the work has been completed, I invite everyone to take a walk on one of the many paths that transect the garden and to enjoy its beauty and tranquility."
Stephen Victor of Ottawa, Canada, was the honoree at the 2006 KKL-JNF Ottawa Negev Dinner. Together with his wife Gail, he was presented by Professor Megidor with a sculpture before unveiling the dedication plaque at the site of Nicanor's Tomb. Mr. Victor spoke about his connection to Israel in general and to the Mount Scopus Botanical Garden in particular. "I wanted to support a project that would be connected to KKL-JNF, which I greatly admire, and to the Hebrew University, for which I have a great passion. Our enemies do not acknowledge the Jewish people's right to Jerusalem or to Israel and we chose to restore the botanical garden on Mount Scopus, in Jerusalem, as a means of expressing our conviction that our enemies will never succeed in their desire to evict us from Israel. We have faith in the strength and wisdom of our people and our leaders. Like the plants and trees that are firmly rooted in the soil, so too, we are rooted in our ancient homeland. There is no honor that Gail and I treasure more than having our names linked to KKL-JNF, the Hebrew University, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem and Israel, the eternal home of the Jewish people. Thank you."
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