Tourists visit the Yatir Field and Forest Center during Succot..
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
Hundreds of people from Haredi (ultra-orthodox) communities in the Negev took part in the Sukkot celebrations at the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center in Yatir Forest and enjoyed guided tours of the area, and inflatable play equipment and pita-bread baking for the children.
At the same time, hundreds of members of the French Scout Movement, who are active in Israel, were engaged in a variety of activities at a Sukkot camp at the field center, as were teens from the Noar HaOved VeHaLomed youth movement.
The Haredi family group was escorted by Rabbi Doron Vaknin from Yeruham’s Haredi community, who declared: “Today is a breakthrough event that has been made possible thanks to the open-minded attitude of KKL-JNF. We support unity, we’re building bridges between the worlds and we’re contributing to our community’s knowledge of the country.”
The event was attended by about three hundred members of the Yeruham, Dimona and Beersheba Haredi communities, as part of the KKL-JNF Education Division’s MAOF program, which is designed to promote leadership in Israel’s peripheral areas.
“Our objective is to help the Haredi sector to connect to KKL-JNF values, while at the same time accommodating their special requirements,” explained Southern Region MAOF Coordinator Ro’i Marciano. “By focusing on the things we share, we communicate values that are important to us all, such as love of the land, Jewish heritage and our connection to nature and the environment.”
The Yatir Forest, which lies to the northeast of Beersheba, is the largest planted woodland in the Middle East: it extends over an area of 30,000 dunam (approx 7,500 acres) and comprises over four million trees. KKL-JNF began planting it in the 1960s, back in the days when forests consisted mainly of pine trees. Today, however, the emphasis is on local species and on the combination of ecological services the forest provides. The runoff-water harvesting methods developed by KKL-JNF foresters, which involve the use of limans, embankments and dams, enable floodwater to be contained and collected, and so prevent soil erosion, enable the forest to survive in an arid desert area and helps combat desertification.
Read more about activities for diverse groups at Yatir Field and Forest Center and see photos