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Addressing a unique internal one-day conference on KKL-JNF's international contacts, KKL-JNF World Chairman, Efi Stenzler stressed the importance of developing ongoing working relationships with similar organizations and private individuals in foreign countries. "KKL-JNF's international contacts provide us with opportunities to obtain knew knowledge and to share our knowledge with other countries. Owing to global warming, increasing funds will be allocated to environmental research, concentrating on care for what we have, in addition to future development. We are facing radical change in the near future and only by pooling our resources can we meet, and deal with, challenges to our very survival.
"In our immediate region, there are many countries facing crises similar to our own, as a result of decreasing rainfall, desertification and urban development. It could be beneficial for each country to address a particular topic, then for everyone to meet and share their findings on both the theoretical and practical levels. KKL-JNF has amassed much information on desertification that can be applied in many different parts of the world. Participation in international forums is extremely important for our organization's future, and I hope that today's reports and discussions will help us to define our focus for the coming years."
The conference was chaired by Omri Boneh, head of KKL-JNF's northern region, who reviewed the history of KKL-JNF's foreign contacts. "KKL-JNF participation at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development was a turning point for us. We began to understand that we are players in an international arena. Despite the fact that we do not have contacts with many of our neighboring countries, recent cooperation with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority made us hope that collaborations will increase in the future."
Ties with the United States Forest Service
"KKL-JNF repositioned itself as a leading Green organization long before international forest services realized that global emphasis is now on ecology. Being a Green organization serves as a "calling card" for many international forums. As a result, KKL-JNF personnel have traveled to seminars and workshops worldwide and foreign delegations have come to Israel to learn from us. I would particularly like to thank KKL-JNF's Resources & Development Division that has been extremely helpful in everything related to "foreign affairs." Our ties with the United States Forest Service, whose new chief, Ms. Gail Kimbell, visited recently, exemplify how contacts can be mutually beneficial. In the Negev, KKL-JNF had been addressing ecological processes that became important for the United States years later, and we were able to share that experience with the USFS. They, of course, have years of experience with forest management that is invaluable for us.
"Research is a major focus of international contact and we have built up a reputation as a professional, innovative organization that finds original solutions to pressing environmental problems. I recommend concentrating on increasing the joint research programs we undertake with the United States Forest Service and the International Arid Lands Consortium. They can open doors for us into countries where until now, we have had no professional contact. Water is also an important field for information pooling. USFS Chief Gail Kimbell was very interested in our work in Yatir Forest and with savannization. Recently, we have received requests from Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria for help with afforestation and creating plant nurseries. Many countries perceive KKL-JNF as an organization with great experience in planting forests, especially important today in terms of global warming and carbon sequestration.
"During 2007, KKL-JNF participated in twenty-five international activities and in future, it is critical for all KKL-JNF departments to cooperate so that we both give and receive the maximum from our international contacts, which will become increasingly important as global consciousness rises."
United Nations Climate Change Conference at Bali -December 2007
KKL-JNF Directorate member Ms. Or Karassin reported on KKL-JNF participation at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Bali in December 2007, noting that "since Israel is not represented in many international bodies, this conference provided an important venue for showcasing KKL-JNF and its achievements. Due to the centrality of afforestation and reforestation as a means of carbon sequestration, KKL-JNF's experience is very important. We need to publicize the fact that we are Israel's largest Green organization. The KKL-JNF delegation at the conference was very encouraged by informal discussions with people from many of the 189 countries represented at Bali, during which we discovered that individuals across the globe had heard of our achievements and were interested in finding out more. It is time to prepare for the upcoming 2008 conference in Poland!"
Discussion on Resources and International Expenses
In the ensuing discussion, Gershon Avni noted that international activities are not necessarily an expense for KKL-JNF, as host countries are often willing to finance KKL-JNF professional delegations. Avi Dickstein emphasized that while international activities are extremely important and a source of pride for KKL-JNF offices worldwide, it is important not to raise funds for activities in countries other than Israel, as KKL-JNF's first and foremost goal is promoting land-related matters in the land of Israel.
"Inter-ecology 2007 - Environmental Safety of the Mediterranean Region"
KKL-JNF officials presented reports on the various international forums they took part in during 2007. Zohar Leitmanovitch reported on "Inter-ecology 2007 - Environmental Safety of the Mediterranean Region" a conference that took place in Cyprus. KKL-JNF was a prominent participant at this conference, which addressed a wide gamut of issues related to environmental safety and environmentally friendly technologies. In response to the KKL-JNF presentations, representatives of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan approached the KKL-JNF delegation asking for future collaboration and assistance.
Zion Nadar described his visit to the United States to learn about forest health, which was especially timely, since the head of the USFS Forest Health Department had just visited Israel together with the USFS chief. "We exchanged information, with emphasis on biological pesticides and creating a shared data bank. We learned a lot from the Americans, especially about planning and identifying potential threats to forest health, and were happy to discover that although the area of all Israel's forests together might be the size of one large American forest, there was much information that they learned from us, including our successes with the introduction of those insects that are the natural enemies of harmful bugs. We discussed future collaboration, in the form of the five-year cooperation plan between KKL-JNF and the USFS, presently in preparation."
David Metek and Hanna Yaffe were at the USFS international workshop on protected area management together with representatives from eighteen other countries. Ms. Yaffe said that the technical part of the workshop focused on geo-tourism and eco-tourism and the involvement of local communities in protecting their natural surroundings - a major KKL-JNF goal over recent years. "Besides the learning experience itself, we created new contacts with people from countries with whom we have no previous ties, such as Honduras and Madagascar. As a result of this conference, we have created an internet network for exchange of information and KKL-JNF has become a meaningful term for people and places that had previously never heard of us."
Fighting Forest Fires Conference at Seville, Spain
This year's conference on fighting forest fires was held at Seville, Spain where Dr. Zvika Avni was part of the KKL-JNF delegation. "This was a very large gathering, with 1531 people from 88 countries. We spoke of our experience rehabilitating forests that were burned down as a result of the Second Lebanese War. KKL-JNF posters were exhibited together with posters from all over the world. There was a fascinating exhibition of forest fire fighting equipment, and as some of you might know, KKL-JNF will be integrating a number of brand new, yellow fire-fighting vehicles into its fleet in the very near future. One of the exciting outcomes of our presence at the conference was creating a new contact with the Department of Forestry of the University of Cordova, Spain. As a result, Professor Silva, a world-renowned expert on forestry, will be visiting Israel and conducting a workshop for KKL-JNF foresters. Ties with Spain are particularly important, as a Mediterranean country that is accessible for us."
Turkey The advantages of KKL-JNF visits to foreign countries are sometimes surprising. Aviv Eisenband traveled to Turkey, where, with the assistance of the Turkish Forestry Service, he gathered seeds of Cedars of Lebanon trees, which KKL-JNF hopes to successfully propagate in Israel. Aviv said that "there is a lot of room for cooperation between our two countries, especially regarding nurseries, satellite imaging, and modern forest management. Although my sense is that they have a lot to learn from us, there is still some hesitation due to political constraints. I hope this will be a beginning."
U.S.A. Haim Sahar attended an international seminar on water drainage basins in the United States sponsored by the USFS. "Once again, the difference in size between our two countries is enormous. Still, we were able to learn a great deal, particularly about harvesting urban waters, rehabilitating quarries and the educational aspects of recycling water. One of the things I found most interesting was the importance of the history and heritage of every site for the Americans - a value we definitely share with them."
Indonesia. The last presentation was that of David Brandt, who described his trip to Indonesia with Itzik Moshe. "Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, with a population of 220,000,000. We met researchers from Indonesian universities and spoke to them about future cooperation, including setting up an experimental farm in Indonesia and return visits by Indonesian scientists to Israel - the first of which took place last week. Everything in Indonesia works with personal connections and actually, the conditions there are relatively undeveloped so there is a lot we can share with them, possibly through the agency of CIFOR - the Center for International Forestry Research. We visited rain forests and jungles, many of which have unfortunately been cut down so that land could be used for farming. The Indonesians are beginning to realize how severely this affects the eco-system and are interested in methods of reforestation. We look forward to cooperating with them in several fields - hoping for an opening for us into the Moslem world."
Debate on KKL-JNF Ideology
After the presentations, a lively and fascinating discussion ensued, mostly devoted to KKL-JNF ideology. One of the points emphasized was that for many countries, KKL-JNF means Israel, so the importance of positive international contacts cannot be underestimated. Many participants felt that at a time of climate change and global warming, KKL-JNF has the potential to become a "light unto the nations" and should send delegations to various developing countries to work with them on implementing world-class KKL-JNF innovations. Such activities, important in themselves, promote KKL-JNF's and Israel's public image, become a source of international pride and renown.
A different approach was expressed by Dr Zvika Avni amongst others, who argued that KKL-JNF was founded by the Jewish people for the purpose of redeeming Jewish land and serving Israel and not for devoting its resources towards developing foreign countries, admirable as that might be. KKL-JNF has real budgetary and financial constraints and cannot afford to spend them on anything other than its primary purpose. When relating to international contacts, our focus should be on importing knowledge useful for us rather than on exporting our knowledge to foreign countries.
Gershon Avni summarized the conference with the consideration that, as is usually the case, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle although everyone agrees about the importance of international contacts for learning and exchange of information. We have knowledge that is unique to ourselves.
In conclusion, there was general agreement that while priorities need to be further debated and defined, international contacts are increasingly important, and more KKL-JNF personnel and departments should be included in future discussion and planning.
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