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Melnick signing Sister Marshes agreement with Efi Stenzler World chairman of KKL-JNF.

Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick

Hula Valley in Israel

Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba



By Rhonda Spivak, May 17, 2011

The JNF is gearing up for its Negev Gala on May 31 in honour of Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick.
Proceeds from the 2011 Negev Gala will go toward a joint research project between Manitoban and Israeli scientists, which will be conducted at Oak Hammock Marsh and the Hula Valley Marsh. This collaborative research project will be the first one implemented through the October 2010 agreement that was signed in Israel by Minister of Water Stewardship, and Efi Stenzler, Chairman of JNF/KKL.
These two marshes became “sister marshes” or “twin marshes” pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Province of Manitoba and JNF/KKL in October 2010 for the Joint Advancement of Wetland Science, Education and Management
As  Erez Rotem, the JNF-KKL Emissrary for The Prairie Region told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “This research project will help us better understand the role of wetlands in purifying water, our most precious resource. Wetlands are important for both Manitoba and Israel as they act as a filter for lakes, and the vegetation in wetlands removes phosphates, nitrogen and other pollutants.”
In this collaborative research project, scientists in Manitoba and Israel will study the role of the marshes in cycling and retaining nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), as well as the resulting benefits on downstream waters, specifically Lake Winnipeg (here in Manitoba) and Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in Israel.

“Much of the research will be completed by graduate students and as a result, this unique joint project will also play a significant role in training the next generation of scientists,” said Rotem.

“Both Oak Hammock Marsh in Manitoba and the Hula Valley Marsh in Israel are highly managed systems,” Rotem noted.
Typically, water moves through the respective marshes by cascading along a gradient from one pool to another, eventually flowing downstream to Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba and to Lake Kinneret in Israel.
Both Lake Winnipeg and Lake Kinneret are immensely important bodies of water to each jurisdiction and both are suffering from receiving excessive amounts of nutrients. Sufficient structures are in place to allow careful control of water levels so that marsh managers can periodically raise or lower levels in the respective marshes. 
“The scientific focus of this unique, joint study between Manitoban and Israeli scientists is to find out whether there are ideal water levels that the respective marshes should be maintained at to maximize the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen by the growing marsh plants,” Rotem explained. 
“The scientists will be  interested in learning  whether or not there are differences in water level controls necessary to optimize nutrient uptake between an East Mediterranean constructed wetland and a constructed wetland in Manitoba’s northern temperate region,” adds Jacqueline Freedman, JNF Development Co-ordinator, for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. 

"As President of JNF for the Prairie Region I must say JNF's  partnership with the Manitoba Government in developing  the Manitoba -Israel  relationship has and continues to be a wonderful experience.All parties continue to"grow" this relationship,and this is leading us into many new areas . We sincerely believe we've entered into a "win-win" scenario with our many Isaeli friends that will keep all parties  abreast of leading edge technology," says Mel Lazareck.

The Hula Valley nature reserve in Israel, and Oak Hammock Marsh here in Manitoba, which are both bird-conservation sites, have significant features in common. Both have been restored after being damaged by human activity, and each is located on one of the world's two foremost bird migration routes: from Europe to Africa and from North America to South America. A great deal of effort has been invested in educational activities at both sites, and both serve as centres for scientific research.
Israel's Hula Valley, located near Rosh Pina in Northern Israel, was once an important resting and “refueling” place for migrating birds on their annual trip from Europe to Africa and back. Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, it was decided to drain the Hula Valley swamp and lake in order to turn it into arable land, although part of the Hula Valley waterscape was preserved with a 3,200-dunam lake kept as a nature reserve. Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets stay in the reserve, knowing they can find an abundance of food. The reserve also shelters rare aquatic plants, such as yellow flag, paper reed and white water-lily.
Manitoba's Oak Hammock Marsh is an important staging area for hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese, and for many other species. It is a safe protected area for the birds to stop and eat, building up fat reserves before starting the next leg of their journey. Approximately 90% of the birds at Oak Hammock Marsh do not spend the winter here. They migrate further south, anywhere from the southern United States to the southern tip of South America.
A portion of the funds raised at this year's Gala will be directly invested in Manitoba. Anyone interested in tickets for the Negev Gala  which will feature the Israeli Selah Adom Band can contact the JNF office at 947- 0207 or go to


(Note:  The band’s leader  is  Doron Raphaeli, a very talented musician ( drums percussion etc), composer,  and producer who has a really important Winnipeg connection—he is married to  Cheryl Hechter, former Winnipegger and daughter of  Gail and Ted Hechter).

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.