(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Approximately one million holiday vacationers visited KKL-JNF parks and forests over the recent Sukkot holiday, taking advantage of the pleasant weather and the many and diverse activities KKL-JNF organized for the general public. The sense of optimism and joy that Israel has been experiencing since Gilad Shalit was released from captivity encouraged people to go out to nature and celebrate freedom.
Most popular sites included: In the north - Hula Agamon Park, Beit Keshet Forest, Ofer Forest, Biriya Forest, Admit Park, Goren Park and Ramot Menashe Park. In the central region: Ben Shemen Forest, Canada Park, and British Park. In the Jerusalem mountains: Aminadav Forest and the Sataf Springs. In the south – Malachim Forest, Lahav Forest, Yatir Forest, Golda Park and Yeruham Park. All these sites were developed and are maintained thanks to the support of friends of KKL-JNF worldwide.Hula Agamon Park is a favorite Israeli nature site at any time of the year, but it is especially so in the fall, when the cranes which have made Hula Lake their home return from Eastern Europe. In honor of this special occasion and the Sukkot holiday, KKL-JNF organized a number of activities related to the Hula, which were led by KKL-JNF's National Service volunteers. The event took place on Sunday, October 16, and was concluded by a performance of The Painter and the Bird, about a colorful painted bird in a picture sold to a wealthy man, who escapes from the picture and makes her way back to the painter who created her.
The activities took place in an area near the guest center that is shaded by giant eucalyptus trees. On almost every day of the holiday, there were so many people at the Hula that Israel radio had to announce that the park was full and could not receive additional visitors. Activities included a bingo game related to the Hula Lake, learning about how, where and when birds migrate, how and why the original swampy area was drained by KKL-JNF in the 1950s and re-flooded in the 1990s, ecology, and of course, workshops related to cranes. In addition, children made beautiful sukkah decorations using recycled materials.
Of course, the main attraction of the Hula is the birds that make this site a birdwatcher's paradise. Hula Lake Park is developed and maintained thanks to the support of friends of KKL-JNF from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Latin America, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States, among others.
This was the second visit to the Hula for Itamar and Ayala Lavi-Artom from Tel-Aviv: "Our children absolutely love being here, it was so fortunate that we had binoculars with us to see the birds with. We're spending three days here in the north for our holiday vacation, and we had no idea that KKL-JNF had organized activities for the children. It was a wonderful surprise that really made our day!"
Itzik Ben Dor, Hula Park supervisor, explained about the bird migration and how the delicate balance between the birds, nature, local farmers and visitors to the park is maintained: "By now, most of the storks have left us, although there are still a few here and there. The pelicans are all still here and so are the ducks. They catch fish like carp and St. Peter's fish that make their way to the Hula from local fish breeding pools.