(photo credit: YANAI YECHIEL)
Danny Atar has gone a long way cleaning house at Israel’s most powerful environmental organization since becoming the world chairman of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael two years ago. In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Atar revealed that his strategy consists of adjusting KKL’s goals, changing the internal organizational behavior to ensure proper and transparent conduct, and correcting the deficiencies and faults that plagued it in the past. For the organization to be effective in strengthening Israel and especially its periphery, he says, “We have to get our own house in order.”
Born in Afula in 1956 to parents who made aliya from Morocco, Atar served in the Golani Brigade and fought in the 1982 Lebanon War. He received a master’s degree in public administration and public policy from the University of Haifa. Elected head of the Gilboa Regional Council in 1994, after running for Labor in the 2013 elections he was elected to the Knesset on the Zionist Union list in 2015, and gave up his seat after being chosen to head KKL-JNF in October 2015. As an MK, he focused on improving both the urban and natural environments in Israel.
Outside of his work improving the transparency of the organization, Atar is most proud of the soon-to-be-opened Beit KKL in Nazareth Illit. He says it will be a place that provides the youth with a center for empowerment and excellence.
“Strengthening in core subjects such as English and mathematics will provide them with technological and scientific enrichment and serve as a center for training and cultural activities,” he declares.
Atar is planning to build similar centers in peripheral communities in the Negev and the Galilee such as Hazor, Arad, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi and Bet She’an, which until recently have been neglected areas for investment. This is an increasingly necessary step, as these two peripheral areas are expected to absorb around 1.5 million new residents in the coming years. Atar argues that strengthening the periphery helps to reduce the economic and cultural differences between them and other areas more used to investment and attention. “Thankfully, we have powerful security and we can overcome all of our enemies, but if we lack strong social cohesion, we would be facing a big problem,” he asserts.
As KKL celebrates its 115th anniversary, Atar’s hope is that it continues to be relevant for the next 115 years, “working for the good of Israeli society, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.”