Direct JNF funding from US surges

Chief Executive Officer praises change in leadership in Israel office.

More than half of the funding that the Jewish National Fund raised for Israel in the US in the past year did not go directly through its Israeli office, although the amount that did has doubled in the last six months since new leadership took over the Israel office, organization officials said over the weekend. The organization currently provides the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael with about $12 million of the nearly $30m. it raises annually for Israel projects, with the remainder of the funding going directly to Israel projects stipulated by the donors. "We do not allocate money for Israel, our donors do," said Russell F. Robinson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish National Fund in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post from Florida. Robinson noted that the JNF funding for the KKL has increased dramatically of late following a change in leadership in the Israel office, which he called a breath of "fresh air" following years of a "crisis in confidence" over the outlook of the Israel office. He said that in the 21st century people want to know where their money is going and be able to "feel and touch" their donation, adding that the days where Israel-based organizations would say "hand over the money and don't ask questions" were a thing of the past. Robinson noted that the JNF works with a wide variety of other NGOs in Israel in projects ranging from land development, water, and the environment. "You can be related to your cousin, but you don't have to talk to your cousin, or your cousin can be as close as a brother," he said. "The new leadership of the KKL comes with a new attitude and different viewpoint," said Efi Stenzler, the World Chairman of the JNF. Stenzler, who was elected to his position in July, is credited together with his co-chairmen with breathing new life into the organization and repairing severe rifts with the JNF in the US. He said that, starting in 2007, all the funding allocated for Israel projects would go through a joint JNF-KKL project committee. Stenzler's predecessor, Yehiel Leket, fought bitterly with the JNF over the amount of funding provided by the group to the Israel office during his tenure. "I had very difficult struggles with them over the funding and I would not accept their method of operation," Leket said. Robinson declined to comment on Leket's remarks. Over the past century, the JNF has planted over 240 million trees, built over 180 dams and reservoirs, developed over 250,000 acres of land, and created more than 1,000 parks throughout Israel. The organization, which was founded in 1901, has over the past decade increased its water resources to furnish water to more than 1.2 million Israelis.