Kudos to KKL-JNF

The organization’s contribution to making Israel bloom before and after the establishment of the state has been enormous.

Children planting trees 390 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Courtesy: Dror Artzi)
Children planting trees 390
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Courtesy: Dror Artzi)
Many of us remember growing up with the Blue Box, the symbol of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, in which we collected money for redeeming the Land of Israel.
The Blue Box was created by a banker in Galicia named Haim Kleinman – who died in the Holocaust – and its mass distribution began in 1904.
On Wednesday evening, a giant Blue Box was placed in front of the stage at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, where President Shimon Peres and Avraham Katz-Oz, the chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, presented the Magshim Israel Yafa (“Beautiful Israel Achievers”) Award to KKL-JNF.
The award is given annually by the Council for a Beautiful Israel to a project that has made “a significant and unique contribution to the quality of life and the environment in Israel,” and this year – coinciding with its 110th anniversary – KKL-JNF was the sole recipient.
The organization’s contribution to making Israel bloom before and after the establishment of the state has been enormous.
KKL-JNF has also, as Peres pointed out, helped many other countries around the world, from Burma to China, adapt Israeli technology and expertise in forestry, soil and water, including pioneering techniques in drip irrigation and water recycling.
Peres argued that the country’s agricultural achievements, symbolized by KKL-JNF, have contributed to improving Israel’s image in the world more than anything else.
KKL-JNF scientists have pioneered techniques for drip irrigation and water recycling.
In accepting the prize, KKL-JNF chairman Efi Stenzler noted that it is “the largest Jewish green group in the world.” Stenzler stressed that the organization could not have survived without the generous support of Jews around the world, from Australia to South Africa.
Katz-Oz said there were many ways to contribute to KKLJNF, such as buying tree certificates, but that no symbol was as potent as the Blue Box.
“KKL-JNF was born before any of us, but all of us remember the Blue Box in our kindergartens and classrooms, when as children we dropped coins into it,” he said.
KKL-JNF says the money that the organization collects is used in a variety of ways “to realize the Zionist dream.”
It has purchased and developed 250,000 hectares (about 620,000 acres) of land, built the infrastructure on 100,000 hectares for more than 1,000 communities (focusing on the northern and southern regions), aided in the absorption of new immigrants, and promoted ecological education and tourism.
Dozens of artificial lakes, dams, reservoirs and water treatment plants it created enable Israel to make the most of its limited fresh water resources.
It has programs to introduce youngsters for here and abroad to the importance of protecting the environment.
Many Israeli families and tourists enjoy KKL-JNF’s more than 1,000 parks, playgrounds and recreation areas, especially on weekends and holidays. These include picnic spots, hiking trails and bike paths as well as facilities for the disabled.
But the organization’s best-known contribution has been the planting of more than 240 million trees, “greening the land of Israel and preserving vital ecosystems.”
Today, it has its own website and Facebook page, and you can find it on Twitter and YouTube. But perhaps we should consider renewing the old symbol of the Blue Box and with it, the pioneering spirit of the Jewish state.
As one of Zionism’s founding fathers, Menachem Ussishkin, wrote: “The coin the child contributes or collects for the redemption of the land is not important in itself; it is not the child that gives to the Keren Kayemeth, but rather the fund that gives to the child, a foothold and lofty ideal for all the days of his life.”
Why not get everyone involved in a new push for the Pushke (the name for the Blue Box in Yiddish), from the Foreign Ministry to Jewish communities around the world, to reintroduce it to Jewish homes, schools, institutions and businesses. Christians and other supporters of Israel might be persuaded to collect money for KKLJNF via the Blue Box, too.
This would not only boost this worthy’s organization’s coffers, but might help reinforce Zionism’s positive image in a world that seems to have forgotten how much the Jewish state has accomplished and shared.