Streams, springs and Mountains

"Many of the forests and sites in the Gilboa were and are supported by JNF Canada," Gil continued, "which is why we created a donor appreciation site here

October 28, 2010 16:30

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

JNF Canada Staff Mission Visits KKL-JNF Projects in Lower Galilee

"Gilboa Forest is one of the largest forests planted by man in Israel. When I say 'planted by man', I include you and the supporters of KKL-JNF all over the world, whose contributions enable us to do the actual work in the field." Gil Atzmon, KKL-JNF Lower Galilee Forest Supervisor, was speaking on Wednesday, October 20, to the members of the Canada Staff Mission, a group of about 16 JNF Canada personnel who were in Israel for a nine-day visit, some of them for the first time. They landed in Israel at 6:30 AM, but by 11:00 they were already at the peak of Mount Saul in the Lower Galilee, learning about KKL-JNF projects in the region and enjoying the breathtaking view of the Jezre'el Valley.

"Many of the forests and sites in the Gilboa were and are supported by JNF Canada," Gil continued, "which is why we created a donor appreciation site here. The Aleppo pines you see were originally planted over fifty years ago, which means that it's time for planting new trees - conifers and broad-leafed species. In addition, the picnic area here is used very extensively by tens of thousands of local and regional guests, and is badly in need of maintenance. That is something you need to remember – KKL-JNF is not just about planting forests, it's also about maintaining them."As JNF Canada Executive Director Joe Rabinovitch explained, "The purpose of the trip is to see KKL-JNF's work in Israel firsthand and to meet our Israeli counterparts. All the JNF Canada employees usually meet once a year in Canada, but KKL-JNF's Avi Dickstein, who was in Canada a couple months ago, suggested that this year we all come to Israel, which was a great idea."

The group's next stop was in the valley, where Gil explained about one of KKL-JNF's major projects in the region, Springs Valley Park: "100 years ago, the Jezre'el Valley was wetlands, with marshes and beautiful ecosystems. KKL-JNF has been involved in this region since the first pioneers arrived, first by purchasing the land, then by draining it to create rich agricultural land, and by water works, including a number of reservoirs. Now, however, the time has come to restore the original ecosystems in some areas. Nahal Harod, the stream that runs through this valley, is one of the major tributaries of the Jordan River. We will be creating ecological corridors in the valley, most of which will be open only to horses, bikes and people on foot. We are also preparing a 100 kilometer bike trail from the Jordan River to Haifa Bay. We'll be keeping all our KKL-JNF offices abroad updated on this project, and looking forward to your support."

On to KKL-JNF's Tree Planting Center at the Lavi Forest, where the members of the group had an opportunity to plant trees and experience what is often the highlight of a KKL-JNF supporter's visit to Israel. Everyone was presented cards inscribed with the Planter's Prayer, and later on with a tree-planting certificate. Jessica Lawson of KKL-JNF's North American desk, who has been working around the clock making certain everything is as it should be for a number of Canadian delegations visiting Israel at the present time, invited everyone to a short ceremony: "When a group comes to Israel to plant trees, or a donor comes to inaugurate a site he or she supported, we invite them for a dedicatory ceremony, and we wanted you to get a sense of what that's about. We emphasize that KKL-JNF is not just about trees, and talk about KKL-JNF's goal of improving the quality of life in Israel and our commitment to education, water conservation, greening the land, river restoration, and the entire range of activities KKL-JNF is involved in."

Hatzor Haglilit is a town in Upper Galilee that was founded in 1953. With the help of friends of JNF from Hamilton, Ontario, KKL-JNF, in partnership with governmental and municipal authorities, created a park that has become the focus of many of the local resident's outdoor activities. The park, which can be accessed from five different neighborhoods, offers picnic areas, lawns, playground equipment, and an amphitheater for concerts and performances. During their visit to the park, the mission met a nine-year old girl who told them that she and her friends really love the park: "We come here every day after we finish our homework; the park is like our own backyard."

The day concluded with a visit to Hula Lake Park, where, besides the water birds and cranes, the group saw a wild boar and jungle cats. They were greeted by the head of KKL-JNF's Northern Region, Dr. Omri Boneh, who spoke with them about the importance of Hula Lake both in terms of the environment and as an international tourist attraction.

Franklin Simkevitz, executive director of regional Ontario, spoke about the goals of the mission and his work in Canada: "For me, this trip is about what I would call 'product knowledge'. We will be able to go back and explain about KKL-JNF projects after understanding how important they are and seeing them with our very own eyes. When you talk about something you experienced, it totally changes your ability to get other people excited about it. We present KKL-JNF as a Zionist environmental organization, and as far as I am concerned, what KKL-JNF is doing is a form of tikkun olam –fixing the world and making it a better place to live in."

Mickey Goldwein, KKL-JNF liaison to Vancouver, told us that he only recently joined the KKL-JNF staff: "I actually got to know more about KKL-JNF in Canada, so seeing all the projects and sites in Israel is a real mind-opener. The trip also provides us with an opportunity to get to know each other."

Aviva Reifler of  Toronto said that the group represented all the KKL-JNF offices in Canada: "Seeing and hearing about the Springs Valley Park is a perfect example of what this trip is all about. A project like this can really change the entire region, in terms of tourism and sustainability. Being here gets my mind going with all sorts of ideas, for example, the educational potential of this region for Israeli children. They can come and learn about everything from Jewish history to bird-watching. And for the kids back in Canada, maybe we can create some sort of a 'virtual visit' to the springs and historic stream. As we drive through the country, people realize that in everything in Israel and everywhere in Israel, you can find KKL-JNF's fingerprints."

For Articles, comments or use please contact
 Ahuva Bar-Lev
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
 Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493

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