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Central Memorial Site dedicated for fallen soldiers of Kibbutz Movement
Throughout Israel's history, members of kibbutzim have played a major role in the struggle for security, settlement and rebirth. 2,200 kibbutz members have fallen during the hundred-year struggle for the right to live in Israel and in defending the State. This year, towards the end of August, a central memorial site was dedicated to them at the Menashe Forests in northern Israel, in the heart of the "Forest of the Kibbutzim" overlooking Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek.
By the Jezreel valley, the cradle of the Kibbutz movement, in an area damaged by fire a few years ago, the memorial site now stands, at its center an observation tower shaped like a water tower, one of the symbols of the kibbutz movement. The idea to build this memorial site had been circulating for nine years and was promoted by Ezra Rabin, former secretary of the Kibbutz Movement: "The idea was to build a memorial that would differ from the existing ones in every village and for every division of the Israeli Army. Our goal was to establish a living, vibrant site that would share the Kibbutz movement's heritage with the pubic, whilst honoring those who have fallen during the century of settlement."
At the triangle formed by the historical events at the mythological army base of Jua'ra, the Palmach Cave near Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek and the Emek Yizre'el villages, the Kibbutz movement intends to create a heritage trail for both youth and adults; to sponsor one-day conferences in the forests; to promote workshops for artists and hold various social and educational programs. Ezra Rabin adds: "This week, one of the orphans of Israel's wars called me, an 88 year-old man whose father fell defending Kibbutz Degania close to the time of its inception. He was very emotional about the realization of this initiative."
And indeed, the President of Israel Shimon Peres, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, and KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stentzler were on hand for the dedication. "We are here to commemorate the memory of the fallen, and to continue along their path," Peres said. He emphasized the tremendous contribution that the Kibbutz Movement - which represents only 1.5% of the population - has made in the ultimate price of battle. Its 2,200 fallen soldiers are 12% of Israeli Army soldiers killed in all its wars. A full third of the recipients of Medal of Valor decorations are members of kibbutzim.
Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, noted that a "certificate of honor is due to the entire Kibbutz Movement," and related to the issue of avoiding military duty. "A spirit of readiness may still be sensed here, among the deep-rooted trees of the Kibbutz Movement."
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stentzler highlighted KKL-JNF's part in imparting the values that are the very basis of the Kibbutz Movement: "The plow and the sword are the essence of the Kibbutz ethos. KKL-JNF has decided to transform Ramat Menashe into a biospheric park to protect open spaces on the one hand and to promote activities and recreation for the general public on the other."
Heads of the neighboring regional councils offered their congratulations on the opening of the site, emphasizing the commemorative motif in both the site itself and also in the activities for the general public.
Engraved on the concrete wall at the foot of the tower designed by a member of Kibbutz Ein Gev are words written by the author S. Yizhar in 1949, which were chosen by Edna Solodor, of Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta'ot and a former MK. "We remember our brothers, sons and comrades, who went to battle with us. We came back, but they are never to return."
Bank HaPoalim Forest, Kiryat Shmona celebrates a New Year in regenerating forest
In early September, an unusual and exciting ceremony took place in the heart of Kiryat Shmona's Givat Shehumit neighborhood, as KKL-JNF officials, Bank HaPoalim staff and local residents gathered to inaugurate the Bank HaPoalim Forest. Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai, Hatzor HaGlilit Mayor Shaul Kamisa, the bank's Deputy CEO Hannah Pri-Zan, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region Dr. Omri Boneh and Michael Ben Abu, Director of Israel Fundraising, all spoke movingly at the event.
Speakers at the ceremony told of KKL-JNF workers' dedicated efforts to fight fires and save the forests and of Bank HaPoalim staff members' devotion to duty, which led them to leave the safety of central Israel to serve their clients in the north and provide support for the soldiers, despite the constant salvos of katyusha rocket fire. The ceremony was the high point of a unique project created and initiated by Bank HaPoalim staff, whereby clients are invited to join the bank's e-banking service and receive updates by e-mail rather than printed information by regular mail. In exchange, the bank donates a tree in the client's name to one of KKL-JNF's forests.
The project was originally designed to save paper and so reduce the number of trees felled in Israel. In the meantime the Second Lebanese War broke out and katyusha rockets rained unceasingly upon northern Israel, with Kiryat Shmona as one of the main targets. The project grew and took on an added dimension, allowing trees to be planted specifically in those forests that had been most severely affected by the fires caused by the rockets as they landed. So far fifty thousand trees have been donated on behalf of clients of Bank HaPoalim.
Dafna HaCohen, Yifat Bernspein, Haim Odeh and Oren Steinberg, initiators of the tree-donation project, Bank HaPoalim's e-banking department: "Behind every tree there is a customer! We take pride in our initiative. Our joint venture with KKL-JNF was originally inspired by a desire to conserve the environment and take care of the forests, but today we are talking about saving and replanting the woodlands - genuine Zionism.
When department staff proposed the project we had no idea that we would find ourselves involved in Zionist activities or in a practical application of the vision of protecting the land. When war broke out and we saw the damage caused by the fires as the forests of the north went up in smoke, we began to understand that we, too, had a part to play in determining the fate of the countryside. All members of staff derive a sense of pride from the project, and want to continue with it. The fact that this ceremony is being held here is tangible evidence of Bank HaPoalim's clients' contribution to building the Land of Israel."
Haim Barbivai, Mayor of Kiryat Shmona said in his address at the ceremony: "The Galilee Panhandle communities have always enjoyed a high level of productive cooperation with KKL-JNF and this is particularly true of Kiryat Shmona. I don't know what we here in Kiryat Shmona would have done during the Second Lebanese War had it not been for KKL-KNF and its dedicated staff. Nor can I imagine who else would have assumed responsibility for rehabilitating the woodlands both inside and outside the town. From the time war broke out up to this very moment KKL-JNF has been involved in sacred tasks to which no words can do justice. What's more, it has forged links between the public and business sectors, with the result that local residents now enjoy ongoing contributions from the resources of Bank HaPoalim and other bodies. I find this very exciting."
Avraham Duvdevani, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman. "We have come here today to thank you, the staff of Bank HaPoalim, for the vital and generous contribution you have made. Since Biblical times, when Joshua sent men to spy out the land, trees have been a symbol of a community's strength and stability. We often express the wish that people should have the attributes of trees - that they should put down roots and grow steadily upwards. In this case, we wish those who have contributed to the rehabilitation of the forests of the Naftali Mountains that the trees they have helped to plant should grow up to be as good and giving as their donors."
Dr. Omri Boneh, Director of KKL-JNF's Northern Region emphasized KKL-JNF's role in helping nature to speed up the rehabilitation process: "Kiryat Shmona was hit by around 1,000 Katyusha rockets in the course of the war, while another 400 fell in the surrounding woodland. The forests are a symbol of Israel's vitality and these forests have been planted since the 1950s by residents of Kiryat Shmona and the surrounding kibbutzim, and so every tree was worth fighting for. Today we can see the trees that we managed to save: some have been slightly burned, but they are already turning green once more."
Michael Ben Abu, Director of the Israel Fundraising Department: "Some 750 thousand trees were burned in the war whilst woodland trails, scenic observation points and beauty spots were destroyed. KKL-JNF in conjunction with a variety of business and commercial bodies and with the aid of donors at home and abroad, is working diligently, as always, to turn the Zionist vision into reality. In the Land of Israel, this is still a time to plant, to build and to grow."
Haim Dahan, Manager of the Kiryat Shmona branch of Bank HaPoalim, Hannah Pri-Zan, deputy CEO of Bank HaPoalim and Naomi Ziegler-Confino, Director of the bank's northern region, all praised the staff members' initiative and their joint venture with KKL-JNF. Shaul Kamisa, Mayor of Hatzor HaGlilit also thanked KKL-JNF and Bank HaPoalim for their successful joint initiative, which "augments the country's finest attributes."
Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai's speech summed up the feelings of all those who had participated in this unique project: "KKL-JNF build this tower that stands in the compound to serve as a fire-watch lookout, but during last year's war this tower helped save human lives. Since the war ended, KKL-JNF has been working day and night to rehabilitate the area. This is our response to Hizbullah."
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