"You are standing at a site where one of the first synagogues to be discovered in Israel was found. By adopting Adulam Park, KKL France is partner to both our past and also to our future." KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler was speaking to some 80 participants in the KKL France Water Walkathon 2010 mission, who, after four days of hiking from eight in the morning to five in the evening in the scorching Judean Desert, concluded their walk at Adulam Park in the Lower Judean Mountains. "I am here today to see how to develop this region with your help. On behalf of KKL-JNF and the state of Israel, I would like to thank KKL France and its president, Mr. Frederic Nordmann, for everything you have done and intend to do in the future."
Mr. Frederic Nordmann, president of KKL France, told us about the Water Walkathon: "The first KKL France Water Walkathon for Israel was held in 1998, in honor of Israel's fiftieth birthday. Water was always a challenge for Israel and will continue to be a challenge in the future, so we wanted to do something to heighten people's awareness of this critical issue. We are not 'friends of KKL-JNF from France', we are KKL-JNF.
"Every year, we hike a different part of the country. We do the north in April or May, and the south in March, when it's supposed to be cooler, but this year, it was 40 degrees centigrade! One of the walkers jokingly said that it's called a Water Walkathon because of the huge amounts of water we've been drinking – about four liters a day per person. Each of the participants paid for all their expenses, along with making a donation towards developing Adulam Park, which is a project of KKL France. When I spoke with Efi Stenzler earlier, he promised me that all the signs in Adulam Park will also be written in French. In this way, everyone walking or biking its trails will know about the park's 'French connection.'"
Dr. Roger Acher, an 86 year old doctor of biochemistry who is still involved in research, said that of the thirteen walkathons that had taken place since 1998, he had participated in twelve of them: "I first heard about the 1998 Walkathon on the Jewish radio in France. I knew about Israel's water problems and felt like this would be the perfect way to show my support. I was very excited and moved by the first walk, which is why I come back year after year. Between walkathons, I hike in France to make sure to stay in shape. I will never forget that first walk. We were in the Mitzpe Ramon region and hiked through the Ramon Crater. It was magnificent, exceptional! Every walkathon is as exciting as the first one, and this one is no exception."
When asked for his secret for being in such excellent shape at 86, Dr. Acher responded with one word: "Passion! I am always excited about new ideas and new experiences. I also believe in serving others, which keeps a person young. Needless to say, I intend to be back next year."
Laurence Borens, who was on her second walkathon, first heard about the walks at a KKL-JNF concert in France, where she saw Eidan Reichal, a popular Israeli singer: "My daughter, who was at the concert with me, told me I should go. I love Israel and I love spending money here. I am proud to have things that say 'Made in Israel' in my home in France.
"Water is a problem throughout the world, but we are connected to Israel, so we are most concerned about it here. I have taken part in marathons all over the world, in New York, Berlin, Belgium and of course in France. The Judean Desert is magnificent, although I sometimes got a little dizzy looking down from the cliffs. We slept out one night in tents under the stars, it was simply amazing and better than any hotel we could have gone to. There was a musician who made us feel the spirit of the desert through his music. KKL-JNF is a wonderful organization, everything was arranged perfectly, and my only complaint is that we are given too much food!"
The group was greeted at Adulam Park, which in the future will be known as France Adulam Park, by Mr. Roni Trainin
, head of the Yoav Yehuda Regional Council, in whose jurisdiction Adulam Park is located: "KKL France is living proof of the connection between the land of Israel and the people of Israel. I am happy to see both young and old in your group. The message you are sending to France and to the entire world is that the Jewish people is alive and well. Enjoy your day in the park!"
Knesset Member Shai Hermesh
quoted the words of Yigal Alon: "'The future of a people who forgets its past is shrouded in darkness. We need to maintain our connection to our history in order to have a future. By adopting Adulam Park, KKL France is taking Jewish history another step forward."
The day concluded with a hike up Tel Adulam for a tree planting ceremony, the official conclusion of the Walkathon. The participants expressed their appreciation to their KKL-JNF guide, Shlomo Ben-Haim
, who accompanied them and organized everything, and to Reuven Naamat
, KKL-JNF emissary in France, who hiked with them and made sure every little detail was taken care of, along with a personal touch that helped make the group into one big family. Reuven spoke at the tree planting ceremony and invited Frederic Nordmann to read the Planter's Prayer in Hebrew, after which everyone planted their trees. After being served lunch in the forest, the group made its way to Tel Aviv, where they spent the weekend and got a much-deserved rest before heading home for France, where they will be sharing their experiences with friends and family.
Adulam Park, which is located in the lower Judean foothills, is one of
the only stretches of virgin land left in Israel. It was KKL-JNF’s gift
to the people of Israel in honor of Israel’s sixtieth birthday, and is
defined as a “biospheric park” - a large, interconnected unit, in which
the needs of the different “residents”, such as flora, fauna and human
beings, are balanced so they can all survive and develop. The park
includes archaeological remains from the Second Temple period and also
serves as an educational focal point for students from all over the
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