(photo credit: KKL)
On Monday, February 21, a group of sixth-graders from the Solomon Shechter School of Montreal, Canada, visited the Carmel Forest. The children raised $10,000 for the Carmel rehabilitation campaign, and their visit to Israel was an opportunity for them to see the Carmel and to learn about KKL-JNF's restoration efforts. The original plans had called for the group to spend time working in the forest, but Monday was a rainy day, so the group was met by KKL-JNF's Itzik Ran, who took them on a bus tour of the forest, together with Yuval, the group's guide. We met the group at the Uri Binamo recreation area near the town of Nesher, where they stopped for lunch.
Amanda (Simha) Essebag, a 12 year-old from Montreal, told us about her school's connection to KKL-JNF: "Every Tu Bishvat, we give trees and money to KKL-JNF. After the Carmel forest fire, there were posters al over our school, describing the fire. We raised about $10,000 for Carmel rehabilitation by sending letters to all the families and asking them to buy at least one tree, at the cost of $18. There are 650 kids in our school, and almost all the families responded positively.
"Every Friday, each class at Solomon Shechter puts money in a KKL-JNF Blue Box. We learn about KKL-JNF activities, and know that one of its main goals is to plant trees and forests in Israel. We also learned that one of KKL-JNF's major jobs is to help keep Israel green.
"For Alex and me, this is our first visit to Israel, and we'll be here ten days. We arrived on Thursday and went straight to Sde Boker. Now we're staying at the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center in Nes Harim. We've been visiting everywhere and learning about an incredible amount of things."
Dr. Shimshon Hamerman, the principal of Solomon Shechter, who was accompanying the group, added that the fundraising campaign began while the Carmel was still burning: "Our first thought was to raise money to replant the trees that were burnt. We didn't know at that point that the decision would be to let nature take its course and not to plant a lot of trees. When we heard about KKL-JNF policy, we were happy to have the money go for whatever aspect of Carmel rehabilitation KKL-JNF deems fit.
Alex (Shmuel) Stoljar-Gold, also 12, was very impressed by KKL-JNF and Israel: "Everybody identifies KKL-JNF with trees, but we learned something this year about KKL-JNF that I thought was very interesting and that no one knew about, which was that KKL-JNF helps build new communities in Israel by preparing the infrastructure for them.
"I've just been here a couple days, but Israel seems to be a really beautiful country. It's nice to see a place where everybody talks Hebrew and that is a home for Jewish people from all over the world. Being here, I realized that since Israel exists in the world, there will always be a place for Jewish people to go."
Driving through the Carmel forest, the Montreal group could see how, thanks to the winter rains, new shrubs and beautiful wildflowers are growing amongst the burnt trees and ashes. These are the first signs of nature renewing itself, and together with KKL-JNF's rehabilitation activities and efforts to prevent future forest fires, the restoration of the Carmel has begun.
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