Rehabilitated Negba Reservoir Dedicated

I would like to thank Bertha Bekhor and the Bekhor family for their generous donation towards rehabilitating the Negba Resorvoir,

August 8, 2010 12:23

KKL-JNF. (photo credit: KKL-JNF)

Rehabilitated Negba Reservoir Dedicated –
A Fitting Tribute to Maurice Bekhor

"The water provided for agriculture by the Negba Reservoir frees up drinking water for domestic usage. Together with JNF UK and the residents of the Negev, we will continue to make the Negev bloom." Ami Uliel, head of KKL-JNF's Southern Region, was speaking at the dedication ceremony of the Negba Reservoir, which was rehabilitated thanks to a gift of the Bekhor family of London, England. "With the help of people like the Bekhor family, KKL-JNF has built over 220 reservoirs throughout Israel. Thanks to friends like you, Israel currently leads the world in use of recycled water. However, we have not yet reached our goal. There are still 100,000,000 cubic meters of water that need to be harvested, purified and recycled

"I would like to thank Bertha Bekhor and the Bekhor family for their generous donation towards rehabilitating the Negba Resorvoir, which is dedicated to the memory of Maurice Bekhor. Together with JNF UK, we help make agriculture in Israel's southern region a viable business. Reservoirs like this make it possible for people in the United Kingdom to buy Israeli produce at supermarkets in London."The Negba Reservoir rehabilitation project was made possible thanks to the efforts of Dubi Bergman, KKL-JNF emissary to the United Kingdom, in cooperation with Mr. Samuel Hayek, president of JNF UK, as part of the goal of bringing life to the lands of Israel. 

KKL-JNF's Avinoam Binder, who expertly emceed the ceremony, called on the family to unveil the dedication plaque. He then spoke a bit about the history of the kibbutz: "Kibbutz Negba was established in 1931, 71 years ago, one year before Maurice Bekhor arrived in London. At that time, it was the southernmost point in Israel, and the entire area was a bleak desert. It was here that on May 15, 1948, right after David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the state of Israel, the Egyptian army invaded Israel. The heroes of Kibbutz Negba stopped their advance, thereby preventing them from reaching Tel Aviv.

"This is a major part of the story of Israel and KKL-JNF – transforming the desert into a garden. It could not be accomplished without the help of our friends all over the world. I know that Maurice was a family man who was happiest when he was surrounded by those closest to him – his wife Bertha, their three children Lyn, Danny and Alan, their spouses and grandchildren. You, his family, are now part of the family of Negba and KKL-JNF. I would like to thank the entire Bekhor family for helping to build this reservoir, which will enable Kibbutz Negba to irrigate its farmlands."

On behalf of the Bekhor family, Bertha, Lyn and her husband Laurence, and their children Simon, Alan and Gidi, were presented by KKL-JNF and JNF UK with certificates in honor of the occasion. JNF UK's Harvey Brett thanked them once again for their magnificent generosity: "I spent the day with the Bekhor family touring the Negev and visiting JNF UK projects throughout the region. KKL-JNF was established 110 years ago to collect money from Jews all over the world to help settle the land of Israel. This was not just a monetary endeavor. When people put coins in our iconic Blue Box, they were making a statement that we have a common purpose and destiny. This was true then, and it is still true today.

"Maurice Bekhor worked in civil engineering, so when we discussed an appropriate venue to honor him, an engineering feat such as this reservoir seemed to be a justifiable tribute to his memory."

Roni Trainin, head of the Yoav Yehuda Regional Council, said that it was a privilege for him to take part in the ceremony: "JNF UK and KKL-JNF are important partners to the growth and development of the Yoav Yehuda region. We will always be grateful to the Bekhor family and will cherish the memory of your late husband. Your contribution helps to develop water sources in southern Israel, which is a desert and a Warfield. Every dunam we cultivate is true Zionist activism, in the tradition of JNF UK and KKL-JNF. This reservoir and others we hope to build in the future, increase water efficiency and the number of cultivated areas."

Gadesh Deganim is the name of a company that is a partnership of Kibbutz Negba, a secular kibbutz, and Kibbutz Masu'ot Yitzhak, a religious kibbutz. It is responsible for developing the common lands of both kibbutzim. According to Yigal Raviv of Masu'ot Yitzhak, "The mutual respect we share with Kibbutz Negba could be a model for cooperation between religious and secular Israelis throughout the country. Sometimes it's easier to get things done with people who are different than you, than it is with those who are just like you, if you share a common vision, which in our case in settling the Negev desert."

David Zvieli, the director of Gadesh Deganim, explained about the need for rehabilitating the reservoir: "The Negba reservoir, which was originally built in 1979, was old. Water stored in it seeped back into the ground, to the point that it became impossible to use it any longer. KKL-JNF entered the picture, and a year later, the reservoir was renovated. It stores floodwater from the Lachish Stream and purified effluents. The water is purified to a degree that enables us to use it to grow wheat, sunflowers and other field crops.

"Today, we are realizing a dream of decades, another historic milestone that KKL-JNF and JNF UK are partner to. It was KKL-JNF that originally purchased the lands that our kibbutz is built on. Lack of water was always a major obstacle to life in this region, because agriculture needs water. When we began this project about a year ago, KKL-JNF moved about 700,000 cubic meters of heavy sediment out of the old reservoir, and today, thanks to the Bekhor family and JNF UK, the reservoir is already functional. My hope for the future is for continued cooperation with JNF UK and KKL-JNF, because our neighbors and partners in Kibbutz Masu'ot Yitzhak have a reservoir that needs to be repaired before the winter."

Lyn Julius, Bertha and Morris' daughter, spoke on behalf of the family: "I really don't know how to express our thanks for this ceremony. When Harvey told us we would be dedicating the reservoir, we thought it would just be Harvey, the six of us, and the reservoir. We were not expecting such a magnificent welcome, for which we are very grateful.

"As Harvey said, my father was a civil and structural engineer. He would have been thrilled to see this reservoir, which helps make the Negev bloom. We see the green, productive fields in this former desert and feel that we are seeing miracles. I would also like to thank Harvey for such an incredible day. We are absolutely amazed by what JNF UK and KKL-JNF have accomplished in the Negev. It is my hope that other people in England hear about this and also decide to support this inspiring vision."

Maurice Bekhor passed away aged 86 on 27th February 2009. He was a descendant of Rabbi Sadka Hussein, who came from Aleppo in the 17th century to serve as Chief Rabbi of Baghdad. Born in Baghdad in 1922, Maurice first came to England in 1938 as a 16-year-old student, where he became a Civil and Structural Engineer. He spent the Second World War in Britain, separated from his family in Iraq. After graduating, he built aerodromes in South Wales for American Liberator airplanes. Sixty years later, he wrote detailed memoirs of this defining period in his life. When the war was over, Maurice returned to Baghdad and married Bertha. In 1950 he fled persecution in Iraq with most of the rest of the Jews and moved to Britain, where he established a thriving business.      

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 Ahuva Bar-Lev
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