KKL-JNF head: 'We must fight the terrible phenomenon of antisemitism'

“Alongside a call to the world, we must also issue a request to the citizens of Israel to maintain unity and solidarity.”

KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar (photo credit: HAIM VERSANO/KKL-JNF)
KKL-JNF World Chairman Daniel Atar
(photo credit: HAIM VERSANO/KKL-JNF)
"If we had hoped, almost 80 years after the Holocaust and more than 70 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, that antisemitism would eventually disappear, it is very clear today that this will not happen. This terrible phenomenon is still with us and we must  fight it."
These are the words of Daniel Atar, world chairman of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), the organization that since 1901 has been responsible for the development of the land of Israel and its forestry, as well as Zionist education.
At the World Holocaust Forum, which is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, KKL-JNF is conducting a series of events to commemorate the memory of Holocaust victims and the bravery of both Jewish and non-Jewish fighters who defeated the Nazi aggressor. The first event will take place in Adullam, where a monument will be inaugurated in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in France in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and KKL-JNF leadership. Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez will later plant a tree in the Grove of Nations of the KKL-JNF next to Yad Vashem, where trees are planted by visiting heads of state from around the world.
KKL-JNF’s main event is the inauguration of the monument in memory of the victims of the siege of Leningrad, and in commemoration of the heroic fighters who broke the siege. During the siege, 750,000 civilians were killed, the highest number of civilian victims recorded in the history of modern warfare. One tenth of them, approximately 75,000, were Jews. The monument, designed in the shape of a memorial candle, will be placed in the center of Sacher Park in Jerusalem, and will serve as a living memorial.
Generous donations from KKL-JNF, together with the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, headed by its president Michael Mirilashvili and the Renova philanthropic fund, have made a significant contribution for its construction, along with several partners from Israel, including the Jerusalem Development Authority headed by Eyal Haimovsky, as well as other organizations from the Diaspora. The dedication of the monument will be attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion.
“I would like to congratulate President Rivlin for organizing this event, which is being attended by dozens of leaders from around the world," said Atar. “This is a difficult time for the Jewish people. While this is the only time in history that the Jews are not being persecuted by any government in the world, antisemitism is rearing its head and we are exposed to manifestations of hatred towards Jews throughout the world.”
Atar feels that the conference should conclude with a joint declaration by all world leaders calling for action to enact laws, pass resolutions, and take action to reduce and prevent all displays of antisemitism, some of which have been perpetrated by large organizations and movements such as BDS.
“Alongside a call to the world, we must also issue a request to the citizens of Israel to maintain unity and solidarity,” he adds. “In recent years, the internal debates and conflicts have exceeded all boundaries and are causing a rift that will be difficult to repair. We know that one of the most important values that has preserved the Jewish people over the ages is unity and harmony – not only of the strong helping the weak – but harmony and acceptance of different opinions, different ways of thinking, different ways of life, and of different lives.”
“Today, this value is more important than ever,” says Atar, adding a call to the leaders of Israel. “Maintaining the unity of the Jewish people as a condition of the existence of the State of Israel is our most important imperative for future generations. It is the most important aspect of our ability to survive in an era during which antisemitism is becoming less and less of a crude word around the world. In all of its decisions and actions, appropriate leadership strives for unity and solidarity as much as possible, making it the most important facet of its activity. Leadership is not just a concern for Israel’s security needs. The importance of security is clear, but the strength of a country is also measured by the social and ideological strength of our very existence here.”
In recent years, KKL-JNF has been active in different ways, both in order to combat antisemitism as well as to strengthen and maintain the Jewish people’s affinity for the land of Israel.
“One of the effects of antisemitism is an attempt to escape Jewish identity, and we are aware that over 70% of the Jewish people are in the process of assimilation. From our point of view, this is a disaster for the Jewish people. That is why KKL-JNF invests so much in this area, together with thousands of volunteers,” Atar said.
In addition, KKL-JNF sends delegations of students and teachers from Jewish institutions to Israel and conducts cultural activities around the world. According to Atar, the organization is currently in the process of building a new program aimed at increasing the personal security of every Jew, and to prevent situations in which Jews choose to remove external symbols in order to hide their Jewish identity in public.
“We also operate in many countries in Latin America and Africa,” says Atar. “Through the knowledge of KKL-JNF, we help them deal with problems like water scarcity, forestry, and stopping desertification. In this way, we also strengthen their connection to Israel.”