(photo credit: Yoav Devir)
World Marketing Conference participants visited different KKL JNF projects in the Negev, in order to see them close up, get an idea of the diversity of KKL JNF Negev development projects, and then prepare a marketing campaign for a selected project.
We joined the group that went to see the security plantings in Nahal Oz and in Kfar Aza, where the participants saw how trees also have a security function in addition to all their other advantages. During the bombardment of the communities near Gaza, the residents of Nahal Oz noticed that the houses in one of the residential areas were not shelled. The nearby cowshed was shelled, and so were other houses in the vicinity. They realized that the houses that were hidden by tall trees, which could not easily be targeted by the terrorists, were much more protected.
In the last few months KKL JNF has planted 2,500 trees in ten communities in the Shaar Hanegev and Eshkol townships, from Mifalesim in the north to Hulit in the south.
The project was organized in conjunction with KKL JNF, the IDF Southern Command and the IDF Home Front Command, at a cost of 3.5 million shekels. Mr. Elisha Mizrahi, KKL JNF Director of the Western Negev, said that the most complicated part is installing an advanced irrigation system. Eucalyptus trees need a lot of water in their initial years. After they are established, however, their broad root system allows them to grow without any irrigation at all.
The members of the group met local residents, who told them about living in the shadow of the war. Ms. Anna Kedoshim, who has lived in Kfar Aza for the past 35 years, lost her husband Jimmy, who was killed four years ago by a mortar shell when he was tending their garden in Kfar Aza. “In spite of the tragedy I went through, I do not forget for a minute that this is our home, and it is part of the State of Israel, so I have no intention of leaving,” she said with emotion.
The members of the group planted an almond tree with Anna near the memorial for Jimmy. Anna said that her daughter’s name is Shaked, which means almond in Hebrew. The members of the group also saw an olive tree growing from inside an old Egyptian tank that was captured during the Six Day War.
Mr. Yaakov Amir (“Everyone knows me as Kitsch”), who is 74, has lived in Kfar Aza since the kibbutz was founded in 1957. He told the guests about life in the line of fire. “I’m not afraid,” he said, “but my children are. My daughter never visits,” he said with sorrow, “and my sons visit without their families.”
One of the most touching moments of the visit to Kfar Aza was a chance encounter with the tots of the kibbutz, who were out for a walk on a sunny day. Their nanny described the feeling of responsibility that goes with looking after children in a danger zone. She said that from the time the little ones learn to walk, they know exactly what to do in the event of an alarm—to lie on the floor with their hands on their head, if they are out in the yard, or to run to the security room, if they are indoors. “When there are security alerts, I don’t take the children out of the security room all day. I am terrified by the possibility that a child could die in my care,” she said.
Mr. Amos Zifroni, who is 82 and lives in Kfar Aza, said that the communities near Gaza were built as a security shield. “We are very glad about the tree planting, and not just because of the protection they give us. The scenery gives us a sense of security, and our bond with the land is strengthened. It is very moving for us to know that communities in different places in the world are involved in what happens here with us. From my point of view it is not philanthropy, it is participation and solidarity.”
Mr. Dito Beniflah, President of KKL-JNF Madrid, and a member of the team, summarized the experience of visiting communities near Gaza. “Meeting the local residents, who live along the border, gives us the strength and the knowledge for getting other people involved, each of us in his or her own country.”