L-R: Volunteers Petr Jezek, Dalibor Pisula, Rudolf Vrba, Stanislav Bocek, Pavel Kana, and Roman Sova, with KKL-JNF's Yaakov Cohen, in Carmel Forest.
(photo credit: DENNIS ZINN/KKL-JNF)
Thursday, January 19 - The buzz of chainsaws and the thudding of shovels punctuated the ambience of the sunny winter morning in the Carmel Forest near the Ofer Junction, where six volunteers from the Czech Republic were hard at work.
Their mission was to begin the preparation of a new 40-kilometer off-road bicycle track, which is being planned to meander through the hilly area’s dense woodland. The massive piles of tree cuttings and debris onsite belied the fact that this was the only the volunteers’ second day on the job. Stanislav Bocek, the leader of the group, said that they hope to get even more done on that day because the previous day was very wet and stormy.
“We are here in Israel to work and to contribute. That is why we came, and that is what we all volunteered for. The more we will do in the nine days that we are here, the happier we will be. ”
The group members stopped for a short rest that morning to go to the nearby KKL-JNF offices to meet Yehudit Perl-Strasser of KKL-JNF’s European Desk, KKL-JNF Projects and Events Director Mira Zer, and other KKL-JNF officials who had arrived to welcome them. Also attending was Michael Kraus, who is a childhood friend of Michael Pacovsky, President of KKL-JNF Czech Republic.
The current group was staying at the nearby village of Kerem Maharal in a house that was made available by a local resident. The visitors were delighted to hear that Kerem Maharal was founded in 1949 by Czech immigrants who had survived the Holocaust. ‘MaHaRaL’ an acronym of the name of the 16th century chief Rabbi of Prague, Moreinu HaRav Loew.
Mira Zer handed each participant a KKL-JNF T-shirt with the words “KKL-JNF volunteer” emblazoned in green across the front, accompanied by the KKL-JNF logo. She asked each guest to tell her why he had decided to come and volunteer in Israel.
The first person to answer was Roman Sova who was sporting a pair of long peyot (side-locks), and displaying his tzitzit (ritual fringes). While working outdoors, he wore a woolen hat that bore the words Na Nach Nachma Nachman, a phrase associated with the Hassidic Rebbe of Breslov Rabbi Nachman.
“I have a wife and three children and we live as practicing Jews”, said Sova. “My father’s mother was Jewish and that always fascinated me. When I married my wife and she told me that she also had Jewish roots, I decided that I had found the path in life that I was looking for. Coming to Israel to volunteer to help build the country is a natural part of that.”
Read more about these special volunteers from the Czech Republic and their efforts in Carmel Forest