(photo credit: KKL JNF)
"This is one of the most beautiful spots in the country," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler at a ceremony on Monday, September 6, in honor of Clal Finance's decision to contribute towards rehabilitating Aminadav Forest. "But not far from here, a forest fire destroyed 1,000 dunams (about 250 acres) of KKL-JNF forests and natural woodlands. This was not force majeure - it was the result of negligence or arson, which I call 'ecological terror'. 800,000 trees were burned. I am very happy that Clal Finance decided to adopt the Aminadav Forest rehabilitation project as their New Year gift to their clients. Yael Preminger
"I wish you all a happy and green New Year, and invite you to spend some of your holiday vacation in KKL-JNF's parks and forests. One of our primary aims over recent years has been to bring nature closer to the Israeli public, and I would remind everyone that KKL-JNF sites are open to the public 24 hours a day, totally free of charge."
Tal Raz, CEO of Clal Finance, which is Israel's largest financial institution outside the banking system, said that he was proud and happy to attend the ceremony not only as a representative of Clal, but also as an Israeli: "It’s impossible not to be moved when you see the incredible scenery here. I know this area very well – I spent a lot of time here as a young boy scout and during my army service, but also now, on my bicycle. I love the bicycle trails created by KKL-JNF in this region - even the climb up to Ein Kerem, which is not easy.
"This summer, 22,000 dunams of forests and natural woodlands were burned throughout Israel, destroying 800,000 trees. I am proud that Clal Finance has committed itself to the task of rehabilitating the burnt forest, and I hope that we will be the first of many Israeli companies that will make similar commitments. We are people who love Israel and are deeply appreciative of what KKL-JNF has accomplished throughout the country in so many different fields. At Clal Finance, we believe in long-term investments, and trees really are one of the best long-term investments I could think of. And there's another similarity – two of the things that make us happiest are seeing green trees outdoors in nature and seeing green on the stock market screens."
The ceremony was expertly emceed by Eran Zavadi of KKL-JNF's Israel Fundraising Department, who said that it was a great privilege for him to be involved in the connection between Clal Finance and KKL-JNF: "Aminadav Forest, which Clal decided to help rehabilitate, is located on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city with a very diverse population that thrives only when all its residents cooperate and work as a team. The partnership between KKL-JNF and Clal Finance is an example of joining forces to achieve an important goal. Since its inception 110 years ago, KKL-JNF has been dependent on the support of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad, and Clal is continuing that tradition."
Speaking to the audience, David Lazarus, KKL-JNF Director of Finances, said: "I've had a lot of meetings with you in Clal's offices in Tel Aviv, but it's really great to be with you outdoors in the forest and to breathe the fresh air. As Eran mentioned, KKL-JNF will be celebrating its 110th birthday this year, so in a certain sense, your gift is launching the festivities. KKL-JNF represents practical Zionism, which compliments political Zionism. It is not a government agency nor is it funded by the government. This has allowed us to maintain our independence and focus on Israel's environment, a goal you are now partner to."
, director of
marketing at Clal Finance, explained Clal's decision to make the
rehabilitation of Aminadav Forest a gift to the company's clients:
"Every year, we give our clients a gift for Rosh Hashanah. Since we all
live in Israel and are connected to our country's open spaces, we
wanted to do something green this year, and we had an original idea.
Instead of buying gifts, we contributed towards rehabilitating the
forest. Each of our customers will receive a personalized certificate
thanking him or her for helping to bring the color green back to
After unveiling the sign commemorating the occasion, the group went to
plant trees on one of the terraces overlooking the valley. Nir, one of
the company's employees, summed up the experience: "It makes me very
happy that Clal Finance adopted this project and brought us here today
to plant trees. It's about doing something for future generations. And
it's great getting out of the office and being in the forest. As far as
I'm concerned, I'd be happy to come back here every week!".
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