mandel family dedication.
(photo credit: )
"Making the Negev green was the vision of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, but it had already been expressed by the prophet Isaiah. "I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water. I will plant the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive tree in the wilderness"." Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF World Chairman, was speaking on Thursday, 21st May, at the dedication of the Mandel Scenic Lookout near Lahav Forest in the northern Negev. "It has now been three years since the Mandels with JNF Australia decided to green the local desert. Lack of water is the greatest threat to agriculture in Israel and in response; KKL-JNF has constructed over 200 reservoirs throughout the country, which provide about half the water for Israel's agricultural needs. Tom and Rae, you have been our partners since the beginning of KKL-JNF's water projects. You have supported the construction of the Shlomi reservoir in the north and the Bachan Reservoir near Netanya. Thanks to you, we are also upgrading the quality of the water in the Yarkon River.
"There are four benefits to what we are doing here: firstly, we are treating effluents to solve local ecological problems; secondly, we are irrigating the Bnei Shimon fields. Thirdly, we free freshwater for drinking purposes and fourthly, we are establishing a chain of reservoirs that will solve water problems in the Bnei Shimon valley.
"This scenic viewpoint overlooks the Lahav Reservoir, on which construction has now begun. Fifty years ago, KKL-JNF planted the Lahav Forest in this semi-arid region. The tens of thousands of visitors who come to the forest will stop at this lookout and enjoy the magnificent panorama. Tom and Rae Mandel, your vision is a fulfillment of the prophetic vision. Your children, Collin, David and Vivian, follow in your footsteps as committed Zionists. We are aware that without the help of global Jewry, we simply could not survive in this region and for this you have our endless thanks."
Jaye Lifshitch of KKL-JNF's Australian Desk conducted the ceremony, introducing Tom and Rae Mandel as "dedicated KKL-JNF supporters who have contributed towards transforming thousands of dry Negev expanses into green lands on which desert agriculture now thrives."
Rosie Pretarick, Vice President of JNF Victoria, recalled Tom Mandel's involvement with the Shomeria water purification plant. "Tom Mandel fell in love with KKL-JNF projects. His vision and his invaluable insights have brought the potential of prosperity to this region, and will also attract new people here. We, at JNF Victoria are proud of such a wonderful benefactor."
"The crops in our agricultural fields this year should have been a half a meter higher," said Ofer Doron, a member of Kibbutz Lahav and former Jewish Agency representative in Melbourne. "The reason they aren't as prolific as they should be is the insufficient water supply. Thanks to you, not only our crops will grow higher, but also the residents of the Bnei Shimon region will grow and prosper. I look forward to seeing you here soon, when there will be more water."
Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, noted that KKL-JNF and the Bnei Shimon Regional Council have been working together for years and that JNF Australia has been very involved in solving the region's water problems. "The water reclamation projects in our region are not only about providing us with water for irrigation, but also about dealing with the pollution in our streams. I would like to thank the Mandel Family for their ongoing commitment to local projects, which allow the Jewish community here to expand and create new means of livelihood and prosperity in the region."
Stenzler presented Tom Mandel with a depiction of the seven crops that characterize the land of Israel, who said that he was overwhelmed by the many expressions of appreciation he had heard. "I would first like to thank the children of the Nitzani Hanegev choir, who sang so beautifully for us. In fact, I don't understand why my children didn't get up and dance!
"I remember when we were working on the Bachan reservoir project in the Emek Hefer region, when there was nothing in that area as far as the eye could see. I still remember the excitement I felt the first time I saw water there and things beginning to grow. Although the fields around us today are yellow, I see the exact vision here. Water will change the region.
"I would like to thank all the KKL-JNF people who have been involved in water projects in the Bnei Shimon region. I hope to be back next year and see some water. Speaking for my wife and family, I can tell you that we have a lot of pride in what is being accomplished here. I wish us all success in this project. Let's get it done as quickly as possible!"
Tom and Rae Mandell unveiled the plaque commemorating their pioneering contribution to the region, which reads as follows:
"The water conservation and reclamation projects in the Bnei Shimon regional council of the northern Negev are an initiative of the Jewish National Fund of Australia. The cornerstone for these projects was laid by leading JNF benefactors Tom and Rae Mandel of Melbourne, Australia, in order to promote increased water sources for the region. These resources will result in an additional 15 million cubic meters of irrigation water and thanks to the Mandel's vision, will enable the turning of acres of dry land into fruitful and productive lands, promising a new future for the region."
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