(photo credit: )
On 20th May 2009, KKL-JNF held a dedication ceremony of the study and work rooms in David Ben-Gurion's cabin in Sede Boker in the Negev.
KKL-JNF has renewed and developed the site with the generous assistance of friends of JNF America, Hans and Judy Friedjung, the ICA Foundation, and the Issler Foundation. The development which began in 1997 included entrance plazas at the site, construction of activity corners in the cabin's yard, renovation of the cabin and at the present stage, construction of the study and work rooms. Ben-Gurion's cabin is one of the most popular sites in the Negev, and is visited by world leaders, tourists from abroad, soldiers, families and teenagers. In accordance with David Ben-Gurion's will, the residential cabin where he and his wife Paula lived was left exactly as he left it in 1973. In the cabin next to it, an exhibit was constructed, which describes Ben-Gurion's special connection to the Negev.
Participants at the ceremony included KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, ProfessorÂ Avigad Vonshak, director of the Ben-Gurion Institute. Ms.Â Miri Palmach, director of Ben-Gurion's Cabin, Yechiel Admoni, Honorary Chairman of the ICA, Yoki Lotan, CEO of the JCA Fund, and the famous photojournalist David Rubinger. The honored guests and residents of Kibbutz Sede Boker and the nearby Sede Boker School arrived at the plaza by the cabin for a tour of the site after which the ribbons were cut, the ceremony was held and the newly built study and work rooms were officially opened.
Miri Palmach, Director of the Ben-Gurion Cabin opened the ceremony by stating that the renovation of the site and the addition of the study rooms are the realization of an old dream and a response to a great need for a place where diverse activities can take place to preserve Ben-Gurion's heritage. "The cabin has undergone a long process that started in 1997 when we built the open museum. Over the years, activity corners were built on the site, an office for the personnel and now, construction of the two activity rooms in Ben-Gurion's cabin has been completed. The kibbutz nursery was where we are now, and this building was constructed in the spirit of that historical kindergarten - about which the Kibbutz members say that the children here all kept quiet between two and four in the afternoon simply because "Paula said so." They knew Ben-Gurion was sleeping.
"I would like to thank Yechiel Admoni from the ICA, who was the first fundraiser; KKL-JNF and Efi Stenzler for their constant support and the generous contribution of the friends of KKL-JNF Hans and Judy Friedjung. Judith, nÃ©e Nussenbaum, was born in Czernowitz, Romania.
She was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after the war. She arrived in the USA without knowing the language but owing to her courage and determination, she succeeded in becoming the first woman to work in the stock exchange, work that also gave her great pleasure. She maintained close ties with people in Israel, Switzerland and Venezuela and decided to donate a considerable part of her funds to KKL-JNF because she knew that this was a way to take care of the land of Israel and to be involved in the continuation of Jewish heritage and Jewish identity, which are so important to her. The activities in the cabin are in this spirit. We focus on transmitting our tradition and on questions of Jewish identity."
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler greeted the participants, noting that it was an important day in the history of Sede Boker and of the Negev in general. "From time to time, leaders from all over the world have visited this cabin and have been photographed by David Rubinger. They wished to see the home of the famous man who changed the course of history and announced the establishment of the State of Israel. Ben-Gurion's cabin is much more than the home of a prime minister and David Ben-Gurion knew this well. I would like to compliment and thank the directors of the site, who successfully retained the spirit of David Ben-Gurion in the cabin - precisely the reason why KKL-JNF has been supporting the cabin since its establishment.
"The connection between KKL-JNF and David Ben-Gurion is not only about this cabin. We are actually realizing the vision of David Ben-Gurion for the Negev on a daily basis. One may certainly be impressed by the exhibit in the cabin, and even more so, the hundreds of projects that KKL-JNF has carried out, and is carrying out, in the Negev, year after year." The Chairman went on to provide examples of the transformational projects being accomplished by KKL-JNF throughout the Negev and the Arava, from the R&D stations, whose research facilitates agriculture in the arid conditions of the Negev and the Arava, to the reservoirs, which bring life to the inhabitants of the region; from developing infrastructure for the new communities for the Gush Katif evacuees, to the major restoration project of Nahal Beersheba Park, and to combating desertification through the special research being done at Yatir Forest.
Stenzler warmly thanked the benefactors and all those who contributed along the way. "When a man gets up in the morning, as David Ben-Gurion said, he must not be happy because of what he has already done, but because of what he is going to do. It is my hope that these activity rooms in the cabin, which are visited by about a hundred thousand people annually, will assist and facilitate the continuation of the heritage and the spiritual will of David Ben-Gurion, for children, young adults and future generations."
Professor Avigad Vonshak, Director of the Ben-Gurion Institutes, noted the special collaboration of parties who joined forces in the restoration and development of the cabin. "On 11th November, 1942, Ben-Gurion wrote a letter to KKL-JNF, in which he apologized for being unable to attend the board meeting. As usual, Ben-Gurion also had instructions to give, as he wouldn't write for nothing, and there he writes that the Negev is becoming a central issue for the Zionist enterprise, demographically and politically. This was true in 1942 and it is also true in 2009."
Yechiel Admoni, Honorary Chairman of ICA, explained to those present about the ICA Foundation, which was founded 130 years ago and was then called the Jewish Colonization Association. In December 1831, in Munich, Germany, Moshe Hirsch was born, later known as Baron Hirsch. In May 1860, in Budapest, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Benjamin Zeev Herzl was born. In October 1886, in Plonsk, then part of the Russian Empire, David Green, that is, David Ben-Gurion was born.
"The first, Moshe Hirsch, established a philanthropic foundation, said to have been the largest in the world at the time, its purpose being enabling Jewish productivity, especially of the Jews of Eastern Europe, through village settlements and settlements anywhere it was possible. The second, Herzl, reached the conclusion, after the Dreyfus affair, that there had to be a political solution for world Jewry, through the establishment of a Jewish State in the land of Israel, and if it didn't work there, then maybe in Uganda. The third, Ben-Gurion, realized that the land of Israel was the only solution for the problem of the Jewish nation and was in favor of immigration, settlement and building a defense force, as the means for the solution of the establishment of the State.
"Baron Hirsch succeeded in extricating many Jews from Europe and settling them in colonies, but the dream of Jewish productivity lasted only one generation. After one generation, the colonists dispersed. While these provided a basis for Jewish communities in various places in the world, the dream of the Jewish farmer and rancher was shattered, and huge sums of money were wasted. Herzl succeeded in awakening a people to the establishment of the Zionist movement, which led David Ben-Gurion, and others, to the land of Israel. He merited founding the Zionist Congress but died young and did not merit seeing his vision actualized. Although Ben-Gurion died poor, by choice, as these cabins and their contents attest, he nevertheless was privileged to build and to lead, and he saw the fulfillment of his vision. Here, today, the circle is somewhat coming to a close. I hope this cabin will, day by day and hour by hour, increase the awareness of these important things in the minds of the many who did not know the Baron Hirsch, Benjamin Zeev Herzl or David Ben-Gurion."
The ceremony was closed byÂ David Rubinger, the photojournalist who has documented the history of the State of Israel who delivered a lecture accompanied by a slideshow of his historic photographs of David Ben-Gurion, which captivated the audience.
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