(photo credit: KKL)
On Thursday, December 30, Barbara and Stanley Plotnick of Montreal, Canada, along with their children, Philip and Bonnie Plotnick and Laurie and Max Reim, and grandchildren, Josh, Erin, Samantha and Matthew, dedicated the Montreal Oasis Barbara and Stanley Plotnick Family Park, the first part of what is now rapidly developing into Beersheva River Park, one of Israel's largest park development projects.
Rubik Danilovic, the mayor of Beersheva, said that this was a very exciting day for him: "The wonderful thing about your gift is the vision behind it. You could have chosen, as many others have, to support regions of Israel that are more central than Beersheva. The Negev is Israel's future, and it is where the Zionist vision is being realized at the present time. We want to attract people to move here, and the park is a major part of that effort. Beersheva River Park is catalyzing change in the entire region around it. Contractors are building high-rise buildings and shopping centers in areas that were once dilapidated slums.
"We'll soon be starting work on the largest amphitheater in Israel, and we also hope to be inaugurating something very unique – the Abraham's Well International Visitors Center, right near the Plotnick Family Park. The Pipes Bridge will be built, connecting the Old City of Beersheva to other city neighborhoods. Stanley Plotnick was the first person to believe in this vision and to contribute towards realizing it, and now others have followed in his footsteps. I don't believe they would have contributed and invested here if not for him. George Bernard Shaw once said that we need more 'crazy' people, trailblazers who are willing to take risks and go places others overlook. We need more 'crazy' people like Stanley Plotnick."
Stanley Plotnick, who was visibly moved, directed his remarks to his family: "It is my hope that this park will give you an idea of my deep love for Israel and Beersheva. This is what I would like my children and grandchildren to learn from this trip. Israel is our homeland. We are proud citizens of Canada, but there is no place we feel so secure and at home as here. No other country welcomed Jews from all over the world and gave them a home. I hope that this park will help the Negev to grow and attract more people to live here.
"I would especially like to thank the mayor, the Beersheva municipality and the people from KKL-JNF, who constantly encouraged me. I would especially like to thank Jessica Lawson, who I call 'my salmon', because she is always swimming upstream, and Avi Dickstein, whom I have known for over twenty five years. Together with my family, we all share the love of Israel and the city of Beersheva."
Mr. Avi Dickstein, director of KKL-JNF's Resources and Development Division,
said that this was a very special moment for him: "I want Stanley Plotnick's children and grandchildren to know that their father and grandfather is a very unique man. He is a person who paves the way for others. Beersheva was one of the homes of our father Abraham, another man who was a leader. 3,800 years later, we are still following in his footsteps. I remember traveling to Beersheva with Stanley thirteen years ago, and we saw the Beersheva riverbed, which was sand and a junkyard that was an environmental hazard. Stanley said, I want to make a park here, and I said, a park? Here? But by the 2002 Negev Dinner, Stanley had translated his words into actions, and all of that evening's proceeds were dedicated to Beersheva River Park. Soon others followed suit, and today, Beersheva River Park is a flagship KKL-JNF project, supported by JNF USA, KKL-JNF Germany and JNF Australia, along with JNF Canada. Stanley is a leader and a true friend of Israel, KKL-JNF and the city of Beersheva."
After the ceremony, Mr. Plotnick was presented with a beautiful sculptured pomegranate, a symbol of growth. Josh and Samantha, two of Stanley and Barbara's grandchildren, read the Planter's Prayer in Hebrew and English, and the family was invited by Jessica to plant an avenue of ten trees not far from the park amphitheater, another Plotnick family site in Beersheva River Park.
Fourteen year old Josh Reim said that this was his first time in Israel: "We're here for two weeks, and Israel seems like a very special place to me. I'm very interested in world religions, so I've been looking at Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites. It's amazing how accepting this society is of people who have come here from all over the world. Seeing this park is quite a surprise for me, I really admire my grandfather for making such a park in the middle of the desert."
Itai Freeman, Beersheva River Park project director, said that tens of thousands of Beersheva residents were already taking advantage of the Montreal Oasis Plotnick Family Park on weekends and holidays: "KKL-JNF was the first organization to promote the idea of creating a park in what seemed to be a hopeless garbage dump, but now, there are four main partners to this project: the Beersheva municipality, the Ministry of the Environment, the Shikma-Besor Drainage Authority, and KKL-JNF, which is the main partner. The park will spread out over an area of 3000 dunams on either side of Nahal Beersheva. It will be spotted with forest groves and lawns, decorative trees, and trails for bicycles and pedestrians. The heart of the park will be a large artificial lake on an 80 dunam tract, which will be fed by the city’s recycled effluents. The park is being built in stages due to the need to raise the considerable funds necessary for its creation. Much of the funding will come from contributions of Jewish communities and KKL-JNF supporters throughout the world, who recognize the dramatic change that the park will bring for the city and its inhabitants."
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