(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
At the end of December 2011, fifty members and leaders of Druze youth movements from communities in northern Israel such as Daliyat al-Carmel, Usfiya and Peki'in, attended a leadership seminar on the care and conservation of Israel’s forests. The event was held by KKL-JNF in conjunction with World B'nai B'rith, and took place at KKL-JNF’s Field and Forest Center in Nes Harim, whose activities are funded with the help of donations from KKL-JNF Friends worldwide, including the USA, Canada and Germany.
During the seminar, prominent figures spoke to the young people about the importance of conserving Israel’s forests. Among the speakers were MK Hamad Amar, Chairman of the Druze Youth Movement in Israel, Mr. Yigal Bibi, Chairman of the Zionist Council and Mr. Yusuf Nasr al-Din, Chairman of the Druze Zionist Movement, together with mayors and leaders of Israel’s Druze community.
On the first day of the seminar (December 27th) the young people toured the areas damaged by the Mount Carmel fire, and helped out by collecting branches pruned from the trees in the green parts of the forest. On the second day (December 28th), they engaged in educational activities at Nes Harim – experiencing for the first time independent navigation in the forest and increasing their knowledge with the help of KKL-JNF’s mobile educational van. On the final day (December 29th), the participants presented their own individual plans for the care and conservation of the forests, using the knowledge they had acquired during the three days of the seminar. They also took part in simulated fire fighting, assisted by a professional KKL-JNF team, and toured Ben Shemen Forest.
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said that the seminar “will increase the youth's sense of personal responsibility towards the forest and enable them to serve later as its ambassadors and protectors within their own communities. In this important enterprise, they will be KKL-JNF’s partners. This seminar is a pilot that we intend to expand and extend to other communities of young people throughout the country.”
B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, who initiated the seminar, said: “B'nai B'rith attaches great importance to education for forest conservation for the sake of future generations, and this seminar is of national significance. It is an extension of the fertile long-standing collaboration that exists between World B'nai B'rith and KKL-JNF, and it constitutes an important stage in the organization’s educational activities.”
Dr. Ben-Zion Bar-Lavie, Director of KKL-JNF Youth and Education Division, said: "the whole idea of the seminar is to give them tools to make wise use of parks and forests and to be role models for their friends and to be active - kind of rangers. The "trigger" for the seminar, according to Bar-Lavie, was last year's Carmel fire that began near the Druse town of Usifiya but the program's goal is to give the youth leaders skills necessary to maintain the quality of forests."
Fifteen-year-old Fadi Mula from the village of Yarka in northern Israel shared his impressions of the seminar: “This is the first time that I’ve taken part in a seminar like this – I’ve never had the opportunity for such an experience before. The coordinator of our movement in the village of Yarka, where I live, suggested I take part in the seminar, and I agreed. My parents are very glad that I’ve come here, because they know that we’ll be taught important things. They’ve heard a lot about KKL-JNF’s work in Israel’s forests, and wanted me to take part in this kind of activity. I’ve really enjoyed being here, and the most fun part was all the important things we learned during the seminar. Mostly we learned how to look after nature, we had our first experience of creative work in the forest and we saw fire trucks in operation. I really enjoyed spending three whole days with my friends, and now I know how the forests should be protected from the fires that can start in them. This was the first time I’d seen the country with KKL-JNF, and as far as I’m concerned, we could do a seminar like this every year from now on. I’d like to get to know other forests in Israel, and I’d like to say thank you to KKL-JNF and B'nai B'rith for all the work they’ve invested in us.”
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Tour guide and KKL-JNF instructor Hasan Amar from the village of Hurfeish said: “Throughout the seminar we repeated KKL-JNF’s credo. The youth had a hands-on experience that enabled them to connect with the natural world around them. The concept of conserving forests, fauna and flora is an extremely important one. Over these three days we have reviewed the history of the forest in previous years, and the youngsters have experienced different methods of conserving the forest and the environment. This is a leadership course, as these young people will serve as mentors to other youngsters in the future, and we expect them to be the young generation of leaders within the community. They are emerging from this seminar with a very important message – a message of both mankind and nature.”
Dina Nasr Alaa al-Din from Daliyat al-Carmel, the Druze Youth Movement representative in charge of the Carmel region and an instructor at the seminar, summed up: “This course is our educational enterprise and we want to enhance the leadership qualities of our students. The seminar is a gift to the young Druze leadership. It will contribute to our community and strengthen our connection to the forest."
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