(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"Maybe these children, who will grow up playing together, will provide answers to some of the questions we have left unanswered. Maybe they will be able to solve some of the problems we have left unsolved." Ms. Christine Melnick, Minister of Water Stewardship of the Province of Manitoba, Canada, was speaking on Sunday, October 10, at the dedication ceremony of the new Playground for Peace in Jaffa. The beautifully designed playground, which faces the Mediterranean Sea, is a joint project of KKL-JNF, the Tel Aviv Foundation, and the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable, an organization based on the understanding that Manitobans and Israelis share many of the same values. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries from Canada and Israel, along with members of a Jewish Federation of Canada mission currently visiting Israel, and members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, who will be performing in Israel and working with local children.
"Over a year ago, we were thinking about how to celebrate Tel Aviv's centennial," Minister Melnick continued. "We got in touch with the Tel Aviv Foundation, and the idea of the Park for Peace came up, and we felt it was the perfect project. Earlier in the day, before the ceremony, I walked along the beachfront to the park, in order to see it before the official ceremony. I walked by the play stations and noticed little footprints around them, which meant that the children had already claimed the playground as their own. My prayer is that we all move forward in peace."Speaking on behalf of KKL-JNF, Director General Ms. Yael Shealtieli said that KKL-JNF was honored to be a full partner to such a wonderful project: "Building playgrounds is something we do all over Israel. One of KKL-JNF's priorities is to help bring the diverse population of our small country together. This park shows what can be accomplished when everyone works together to create projects for life and coexistence. We are grateful to all our partners, in particular to the Minister of Water, Christine Melnick, who is like a guiding light. Her love of Israel and KKL-JNF never ceases to amaze us."
Speaking with us later, Ms. Shealtieli added that the partnership between KKL-JNF and Manitoba is nothing new: "KKL-JNF and the Province of Manitoba have been collaborating and sponsoring joint projects and research on water-related issues for a number of years. One example of this was the Second Annual Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium in January 2010 that was hosted by KKL-JNF. Next week, Minister Melnick and KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler will declare a partnership between KKL-JNF's Hula Lake Park in Israel and Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba. These joint projects cement the bond between Israel and Manitoba and help connect our two communities."
Mr. Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba, said that he was proud to be partner to the creation of the playground for peace in Jaffa, "where children who live together will come to play together. I would like to thank all the organizations who participated in this project, particularly KKL-JNF for bringing everyone together. I would like to take this opportunity to announce that Manitoba will contribute $40,000 in support of the local leadership program. The children of Jaffa, who are growing up together, are future organizers, scientists, teachers and more, and we hope they will all contribute to a better future. We look forward to the great things that will come out of this project."
Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv: "I will never forget the warm reception I received in Winnipeg, when I was there last year to participate in celebrations in honor of Tel Aviv's centennial. It is my honor to reciprocate and host you in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Tel Aviv is the cultural and financial capital of Israel, and its population is constantly growing. It was chosen by National Geographic magazine as one of the ten most beautiful coastal cities, and by the New York Times as one of the coolest cities in the world. At the same time, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa is also sensitive to the needs of its less fortunate and needy, whether they are Jews, Christians, Muslims or migrant workers. We need to enable everyone to lead a life of dignity. Education is the key for closing the gap and providing equal opportunities for everyone.
"We cannot succeed alone. The support of our friends the world over is critical. This playground is a shining example of what can be achieved when all forces combine to achieve a common goal. It is my hope that this will be the first of many joint projects that we will see in the future."
After Mayor Huldai finished speaking, he presented Premier Selinger with the Tel Aviv centennial medal, and Premier Selinger reciprocated with a framed picture of a polar bear, "something I don't think you have too many of in Israel."
Mel Lazerek, President of JNF Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, was also recently appointed special representative for Manitoba to Israel for Economic and Community Relations: "The Park for Peace is the brainchild of the citizens of Manitoba. It is a means of celebrating democracy, multiculturalism, education and human rights, principles that mirror our shared values. The funding for this project came from the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable, KKL-JNF and the Tel Aviv Foundation. Larry Vickar, who was the honoree at the annual Canadian Negev Gala, gave a generous contribution to help realize this project, as did Jacqueline Simkin of Miami, Florida. A lot of people have been instrumental in making this dream a reality, and I would like to thank them all, especially KKL-JNF in Israel and Jessica Lawson, who organized today's event and is accompanying a number of Canadian delegations that are currently in Israel. And of course, Minister Melnick, one of Israel's most stalwart friends."
The ceremony was emceed by Mr. Avraham Ben Shushan
, outgoing president
of the Tel Aviv Foundation, who said that this was a very exciting day
for him: "This is the last inauguration ceremony I will be presiding
over as president of the Tel Aviv Foundation. It is exciting, because
we are inaugurating a playground for peace."
After the ceremony, during which the Jaffa Community Center Girl's
Choir sang beautifully in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Mr. Ben Shushan
invited the distinguished guests to unveil the plaque honoring the
organizations that helped build the playground. As the sun set over the
Mediterranean, the guests were invited for a tour of the Community
Center, while the local children, who had been waiting patiently for
the ceremony to conclude, made a beeline for the playground, which came
alive with shouts of joy and excitement.
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