(photo credit: )
Over the years, KKL-JNF activities have been a practical implementation of the heritage of David Ben Gurion, one of the founding fathers of the Jewish State and Israel's first Prime Minister. Ben Gurion called for the settlement of the Negev, development of agriculture, afforestation and protection of the land - exactly what KKL-JNF does every day of the year.
The Negev Dinner fundraising event in Ottawa, Canada, will take place this year in honor of the soldiers who fought in Israel's War of Independence. The contributions will go towards developing Ben Gurion's house in Sde Boker, where he spent his last years. Some of the funds will also be earmarked for furthering the development of the Ran Cochba Scenic Lookout in the Naftali Mountains in the north - a memorial for the helicopter pilot who was killed in the Second Lebanese War when his helicopter crashed.
This festive fundraising event is an annual event hosted by JNF Canada in twelve Canadian cities, which expresses appreciation for those who are active on behalf of the Jewish community and raise funds for new development projects in Israel for the betterment of its citizens and environment.
This year's honoree is Ms. Sara Vered, whom we met at the government memorial ceremony marking 36 years since the passing of David Ben Gurion. The ceremony took place in the presence of the President of Israel, Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who emphasized the importance of developing the Negev in his remarks. "We are here thanks to the vision of Negev development. It is here that Ben Gurion called to settle the Negev by personal example but we must admit that the vision of a blossoming Negev has yet to be achieved. Much has been accomplished but there is still a great deal to be done."
This is the vision with which Sara Vered identifies. Her story is tied to that of the State since the War of Independence, when, as a young girl, she served as a signal operator for the Hagana, fighting for the Jewish people's right to an independent state. After the war, while studying at the Tel Aviv Teachers Seminary, she remembers occasionally seeing Ben Gurion going for a stroll on the city streets. Sixty years have passed since then, and her contribution to preserving his heritage is her way of closing this circle.
For many years, Sara and her husband Ze'ev, who passed away last year, were prominent figures in the Jewish community of the Canadian capitol. Ze'ev Vered was well-known as a developer of Northern Canada, and was awarded prizes for his work. "I see the Jews of Canada and Israel as integral parts of one people. Over the years, I was active in promoting ties between both communities, so that they could learn about each other's culture and keep in touch," Ms. Vered said.
During our visit to the site, we met Miri Palmach, the director of the Ben Gurion House site. "Over 90,000 visitors come here annually, many of them students and soldiers. There is no better place to learn about Ben Gurion's life and heritage. The guests can visit his house, view an exhibit that depicts his life and also participate in an interactive game that demonstrates how KKL-JNF implements his vision of developing the Negev. It is my hope that thanks to the contribution, we will be able to upgrade the site, integrate advanced technologies and create a new exhibition."
Vered did not hide her feelings while visiting the site. "I am very moved to be visiting this spot, where Ben Gurion lived. During the War of Independence I served in the Southern Front Headquarters and now I am back in the Negev to help develop it."
When she was asked to be the honoree of the Negev Dinner, Vered's first reaction was to refuse: "I always liked doing things backstage; I didn't want to sit there and hear everyone say how wonderful I am. I eventually was persuaded to accept the honor because I was convinced that it would provide an opportunity to tell the history of the state of Israel through my own personal story."
Preparing for the event became a family project spanning generations: Arnon Vered, her son, is the chairman of the organizing committee, and his two brothers will be helping him. "Thanks to the family's involvement, the grandchildren are also really excited about the event," Vered said.
440 Jewish and non-Jewish guests are expected to attend the Negev dinner, which will take place on 22nd March 2010. The main speaker will be the Canadian Minister of International Trade, the Honourable Stockwell Day, who is known as a supporter of Israel.
Jessica Lawson of KKL-JNF's Canadian Desk explained about the evening's goal. "Besides the fundraising, an important goal in its own right, the evening brings the Jewish community together and strengthens the bond to Israel."
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