Moving Ceremony Dedicates the Ilanot "Tree Museum"

The "Ilanot" site development project in the Sharon, and making it accessible to the general public, especially to the disabled, was made possible thanks to JNF America and the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.

By KKL
April 14, 2010 17:08
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1. (photo credit: kkl)

 
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Moving Ceremony Dedicates the
Ilanot "Tree Museum" Accessibility Project


They came straight from the Ben Gurion Airport, after a direct flight from the United States, and they certainly weren't feeling refreshed. However, when the members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County got off the bus and were greeted by a violin playing Heveinu Shalom Aleichem, they formed a spontaneous circle, dancing to the tune. These young men and women were chosen to be the next generation of leaders of the central Jewish organizations in their communities, and they were in Israel for a leadership training project.

The "Ilanot" site development project in the Sharon, and making it accessible to the general public, especially to the disabled, was made possible thanks to JNF America and the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. All the main organizations and institutions of the community are partner to building it. For this reason, the project dedication event was chosen to be the first experience of the mission's nine-day visit to Israel.

And what an experience it was! The magnificent site, which for decades was used as an experimental station for acclimating species of trees in the young country, is being totally renovated, including the paving of trails, the installation of picnic tables that can also be used by people in wheelchairs, the building of special water fountains that are also accessible to people with limited movement, benches along the trails and an entertaining maze that is waiting for the bushes and trees planted in it to grow. When building is completed, the site will include a study hall, corners for storytelling to children where trees mentioned in children's literature will be planted and explanatory signs for the more than 1,000 types of trees planted in the area.

And in this enchanted surroundings, the guests were about to have an experience that one could have "only in Israel". Ze'ev Kedem, Director of KKL-JNF's Fundraising Division, warmly thanked JNF America for its initiative in promoting the project and inviting the Federation to partake in the generous contribution to this very unique project.

He then invited the two dancers, Adam Greenfeld and Neta Dotan, to the ceremony plaza. This is without a doubt one of the most extraordinary pairs of dancers that the guests from the United States would ever see, and even in Israel, not everyone has seen them. Adam Greenfeld is an IDF disabled war veteran, who was injured 18 years ago when he was doing reserve duty. Since then he has been in a wheelchair. Greenfeld began to dance on the recommendation of his wife, who heard about a dance club at Beit Halohem, and she suggested that he try: "Over the years, after I joined the club, the subject began to develop both in the field of artistic dance and also folk dances. Today, dance fills my entire life. For me, it's mainly fun, joy of life, quality of life and of course, artistic expression," Adam Greenfeld said.

Neta Dotan became Adam's regular dancing partner, when her older sister, who danced with Adam previously, was drafted into the army: "I have been dancing classical Ballet since I was in first grade. I met Adam at age 14, when three of the members of my group in the studio danced with three "sitting" people. I prefer to call them "sitting people" rather than "disabled". At first, it was really hard for me to get used to this special reality, and I was naturally somewhat deterred. After all, I was only a girl in eighth grade. Dancing with Adam, however, caused me to suddenly grow up. I found myself explaining to my friends about the essence of dancing together and the unimportance of the large difference in age. Some of them raised their eyebrows when they heard how old Adam was. But an incredible link was created between me and him. He understands me, we speak to each other with our eyes, and he understands what I do and how it can be integrated with dancing."

And in fact, when the music began, and they started to move on the plaza, there was silence. The two flowed together, as if there was no wheelchair, as if there were no limits. The tearful eyes and the loud applause at the end of the performance said everything. This was a supreme expression of the simple fact that limited movement ability does not mean limitation in regards to quality of life, enjoying life and the desire to live. Adam and Neta have already achieved international acclaim when they took part in the International Disabled Day that took place in 2008 in Saint Petersburg, and they will be performing in Canada in the near future as part of a large mission of IDF disabled war veterans.

Members of the delegation were very moved to meet Yuval Wagner, who was seriously wounded when his helicopter crashed in the Beit Shean Valley 23 years ago. Yuval, who serves at the chairperson of the "Access Israel" organization, which is active on behalf of the disabled, still serves in the Air Force in spite of his serious disability. He told the guests: "My father, who is wheelchair bound ever since he was wounded when he served in the Israeli Army, is also here. I actually grew up in a home where wheelchairs are a fact of life, until I was wounded myself. I can say that over the past decade, there has been nothing less than a revolution in terms of accessibility for the disabled, and there are more and more possibilities for leading a normal life with a disability. Israel is a beautiful country, but this beauty means nothing to us if we can't see it. In Israel today there are 1.4 million people who are physically disabled who need exactly what you are facilitating, thanks to your assistance. You can be proud of what you are doing."

In her words of greeting, KKL-JNF Director General, Ms. Yael Shaltieli thanked the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County for their decision to adopt the "Ilanot" accessibility project: "At the beginning of the 1950s, this site served as an experimental farm for checking out various types of local and imported trees that could be grown in Israel. At that time, the site became very popular for scientists, students and nature lovers, who came to observe the types of trees that were new to the Israeli landscape. Now, after years during which no use was made of this site, thanks to your contribution, we are able to add Ilanot to the list of sites open to the public for leisure and recreation. Each tree at this site will be given an identity card, and where there are groups of trees, there will be "touching points" for the visually impaired. The trails have been paved, the tree-like maze has been built, and the public is starting to return to the site."

Yael Shaltieli awarded the two leaders of the mission, the Chairperson of the Federation Ms. Arlene Frumkin and the Federation CEO, Gerrie Bamira, a Blue Box as a symbolic gift, reminding Ms. Bamira of a childhood memory: "Not too long ago, there were floods in New Jersey, and when assessing the damage, I found an old Blue Box in the basement of my home, which I remembered from when I was a child. I am delighted to be given a new box now, which will serve as a symbol of my link and that of my family with Israel in the future."

Before the ceremony began, Arlene Frumkin and Gerrie Barima explained what was so unique about the group of young and exuberant people that they were leading on this visit to Israel: "The Federation delegation was created with the cooperation of the synagogue and the organizations that are members of the federation, like "Hillel", the community center and other activist organizations. In this framework, committees were set up to choose delegation participants, people who were identified as having leadership potential. Together, we set up a training program, which concentrates on imparting leadership skills. The visit to Israel is a very important part of the project. The adoption of the accessibility project at Ilanot is the result of a request by the KKL-JNF representative to the Federation. We decided that adopting a project like this is a fitting manner in which to express our desire to contribute, and the visit to Israel and dedication of the project is the most important part of our delegation's visit."

"This is the beginning of a wonderful journey in which every day will be like today," Arlene Frumkin said at the ceremony. "Over the next few days, you will learn about and see important things related to life in Israel, and the role of Diaspora Jewry in enriching life here."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, two trees were planted in the central plaza, and there was an unveiling of the dedication stone that notes the contribution of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. In spite of the weariness, everyone went for a hike on the "Tree Museum" trail in Ilanot, stopping by exotic and rare trees and receiving explanations on how the site preparation works that are scheduled to be completed in the near future.

For Articles, comments or use please contact
 Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
Email: ahuvab@kkl.org.il
 Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493
www.kkl.org.il/eng

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