Since expansive areas of forest and open areas in the north were burned during Lebanon War II, many established Israeli companies have increasingly been mobilizing efforts to preserve and develop the environment for the general Israeli public. Last week, a festive ceremony took place to dedicate the Dvira Forest, established through the Teva Pharmaceutical Company, who adopted the developing forest at the edge of the desert in the northern Negev.
Cooperation between Teva and KKL-JNF to establish the Dvira Forest began with a family conversation in the home of recently appointed Vice-President of Teva, Arik Yaari. Until then, Teva had traditionally honored its workers and friends by planting trees in their name in KKL-JNF forests. Arik Yaari's wife came up with the new suggestion of adopting an entire forest. The directorate of Teva and its workers accepted the idea and allotted the necessary resources.
About two hundred people attended the ceremony dedicating the forest to Teva, and the mass planting ceremony that followed. Among the guests were heads of the local Jewish and Arab regional councils, heads of KKL-JNF led by World Chairman, Efi Stenzler, Avi Dickstein, Executive Director of Resources and Development Division, and Directors and staff from Teva Tech and the chemical division of Teva, Ramat Hovav.
The ceremony was emceed by Michael Ben-Abu, Israeli Fundraising Department. The directors of Teva, Eli Hurwitz and Shlomo Yanai were not present at the ceremony since they were in the United States attending the funeral of Harold Snyder, one of the leading figures in the generic pharmaceutical industry who had been a partner and a friend of the Teva Company. The company management of Teva decided to plant 850 new trees in the Teva Forest in memory of Harold Snyder and the message of Shlomo Yanai, President and CEO of Teva, was that "the Teva Forest is an additional proof of the commitment and work of the Teva Company towards the prosperity of the Negev."
The Teva Forest extends over 1,000 dunam (250 acres) within the planted Dvira Forest along the "Israel Route" and will provide hikers on the Israel Rooute with places to stop and refresh themselves. KKL-JNF have also developed a campground in the forest through contributions from Teva, with 20 picnic tables - some accessible to the disabled - and have paved a walking route leading to the archeological site and caves where people lived during the Byzantine period.
Arik Yaari explained the company's decision. "The choice of creating a forest as a project stems from both the need to promote the quality of life and the environment, and also to develop and preserve green areas. This overall concept was adopted so easily at Teva because of its similarity to our company's working concept. We decided on the Negev because most of the investments of our chemical division in recent years have been made in the Negev, with the attitude that the Negev is the place where life is flourishing. We want to establish ties of past-present-future and to transform the forest into a center of activities for families of our staff and to hold events here. We embarked upon this project about a year ago but owing to the shmita year we did not do any actual planting. Hanukah is an appropriate holiday to dedicate this project. Despite the current economic financial crisis we are already envisioning tomorrow and the manner in which we want to continue to live here."
Efi Stenzler spoke about the common historical "chutzpah" shared by Teva and KKL-JNF - both of which were founded in the same year at the beginning of the 20th century. "I am pleased that the forest here was chosen to be a historical meeting point between KKL-JNF and Teva. Our desert forests particularly provide healing because of their fight against the disease of global warming. Today as we dedicate this forest, Teva is completing an extensive development of the Negev from both the economic and the ecological aspects."
Stenzler added that KKL-JNF is considering developing an additional scenic route through Nahal Shikma that will begin in the Teva Forest and continue over 60 kilometers of routes and campgrounds to the Zikim Beach. "This campground has been built here thanks to contributions of Teva and will serve as a departure point for tens of thousands of hikers each year." He presented the representatives of Teva with certificates that the company is listed in the KKL-JNF Golden Book together with other people and organizations who have made significant contributions to the projects of KKL-JNF throughout its 107 years of existence. "There is no need to explain how important the contributions made by Teva have been to Israel's economic strength and standing throughout the world."
After the ceremony participants went out to the planting area at the eastern section of the forest to plant 150 new carob, oak and eucalyptus saplings in the forest whose area presently extents over 17,000 dunam (4250 acres). To everyone's excitement, children from the Sodot Special School in Beersheba and their counselors joined in the planting.
"Planting is not simply an act of suppressing the desert," explained Ami Uliel, Director of KKL-JNF Southern Region. "By planting, we repair damage caused by man over hundreds of years and return the green vegetation that was eradicated as a result of over-grazing and illegal cutting down of trees. We have archeological proof that these areas were highly fertile, indeed areas of productivity and agriculture for thousands of years. What we are doing now is repairing the damage and restoring it to life."
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