Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Manitoba delegates at Jerusalem Park
Photo: Yoav Devir

Delegation group photo in front of donor recognition plaques at Jerusalem Builder's Garden
Photo: Yoav Devir

Staff Delegation from JNF Canada visits Israel to visit projects supported by Friends of JNF Canada, and to look into options for new initiatives

Feb 28, 2013


A staff delegation from JNF Canada arrived for a visit to Israel in order to observe at first hand projects that have been implemented with the support of the organization’s Friends in Canada and look into options for new initiatives.

“The idea is for staff members to see, hear, speak, touch and feel the tremendous importance of the various projects that influence the lives of so many people,” said Josh Cooper, CEO of JNF Canada. “We’ve seen a multitude of opportunities for future projects here, too, and that’s no less important as far as we’re concerned,” he added.

This is the second time that a staff delegation from JNF Canada has come to Israel, and the plan is to make this visit an annual event. During the eight days they spent here, the delegates toured Israel from north to south. They were particularly impressed by the Ecological Zionist Learning Center in Yokneam, which was established with the help of donations from the 2009 Negev Dinner dedicated to the Comper family of Toronto, and in Acco, they listened as municipal representatives spoke of their plans for the city’s botanic garden.

They also visited Tzfat’s Blue Valley Park and nearby Birya Forest, and at Lake Hula, one of the world’s most remarkable bird-watching sites, they observed the bird activity from a mobile “hide.”

“It’s very important to visit Israel,” said Rob Berkowits, Director of the Manitoba region. “We are all committed to what we do, but coming here for a visit strengthens our connection with Israel. Once you get to know something personally, you can present it with the sort of passion that’s impossible to simulate.”

Of their meetings with other representatives of JNF Canada, Berkowits added: “We’re getting to know one another, doing some team building, picking up ideas from others and passing on some of our ideas to them.”

Among the sites the delegation visited in southern Israel were the Sderot Reservoir, Azrieli Park and the remains of the ancient synagogue at Maon. They toured the border with the Gaza Strip and heard about the security-oriented tree plantings designed to provide a green wall of trees along the border that will conceal homes and vital highways from the eyes of those attempting to launch rockets into Israel, making it harder for them to harm its civilian population.

In the Halutziot communities, the delegation members met Israel’s new pioneers, many of whom are Gush Katif evacuees who have chosen to recreate their homes in the heart of the sand dunes and begin a new life there.

In Beersheba River Park, the visitors were impressed by this large metropolitan recreational open space that is significantly changing the quality of life of residents of the Negev. At the IDF Training Base City they learned of the plan to transfer military bases from central Israel to a single large main base in the Negev.

“Every time I visit Israel I learn new things,” said Montreal Project Director Zev Mestel. “It’s very important to me to see the various projects for myself, because there’s no substitute for first-hand impressions.”

The delegates also made their way to Jerusalem, but, not content with being just tourists in the Holy City, they took part in a professional tour of the capital’s various projects. The Restorers of Jerusalem Garden was established in 1978 close to the walls of the Old City, not far from Jaffa Gate, and Steve Solomon, Head of the Jerusalem Foundation’s Canada Desk, told his guests how the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in various communities in Canada had helped to transform the neglected no man’s land into a delightful beauty spot.

On the other side of the road, the Jerusalem Foundation is currently engaged in extending Teddy Park. The Foundation’s President, Mark Sofer, met the delegates at the site and told them about the park, which honors the memory of Jerusalem’s former Mayor, the late Teddy Kollek. Architect Roi Singer was there, too, to display the development plans for the project.

One of KKL-JNF’s largest and most important projects for the coming years is the Jerusalem Park, which, when complete, will encircle the capital with a 4,000 acre green belt. “We’re so close to the city, but look how we’re surrounded by nature, and just listen to the birdsong,” said Eitan Kachka, the park team’s representative. He pointed out that opening up the woodland to large numbers of visitors would help to conserve it and protect it from the building initiatives that threaten to gnaw away at open areas. “This park is going to change Jerusalem residents’ way of life and offer them new options for recreation in natural surroundings,” he said.

Around seventy youngsters with physical disabilities study at Jerusalem’s Ilanot School for Special Education. The students are delightful and the staff members are devoted, but the schoolyard is bare: there are no plants, and no suitable facilities. JNF Canada has now taken it upon itself to create a green schoolyard that will suit the pupils’ needs.

In another area of the yard, there is a plan to establish a “Giving Tree,” a large and remarkable tree-shaped structure that will include games and therapeutic equipment. A greenhouse and garden are planned for yet another area. The delegation members were moved to tears when they heard the story of one of the students, who loves to work in the garden even though he does not have the use of his hands. The staff have provided him with special shoes to which gardening implements can be attached, enabling him to use his feet to perform horticultural and agricultural tasks.

The school’s headteacher Noa Ahim explained that the students are aged between six and twenty-one years old, mainly residents of Jerusalem and its environs, and belong to all religions and sectors of the population. “This is an example of how we can all live together – religious and secular Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Bedouin from the Negev,” she said.

“All the students have a sparkle in their eyes, and it’s our job to make sure it stays there, so that they grow up to be active members of society,” added Deputy Head Yuval Tsur.


Lance Davis
became Toronto Director only six months ago, but he knows Israel well from previous visits over the years. “For many of our colleagues, this is the trip where they fall in love with Israel, but I’ve been in love with it for a long time now,” he said. “For me, this is an opportunity to get to know it in depth and learn to appreciate fully the vital work that KKL-JNF does.”

Among the delegates was Debbie Lenchner, who has been working at KKL-JNF for 24 years. Although she has visited Israel in the past, this was the first time she had toured the country with KKL-JNF. “This is an amazing and impressive trip that teaches you a lot,” she said. “When you see things for yourself, it’s a completely different feeling.”

Tasha Papasotirion, on the other hand, has been working at KKL-JNF for just one year, and has never visited Israel before. “I fell in love with the country, and I don’t want to leave,” she said. “Everyone told me ahead of time that this would be an experience that would change my life, but it’s only now that I understand what they meant. Ever since this visit I’ve been proud to be a part of KKL-JNF. It’s an organization that initiates change,” she concluded.

The Canadian guests also paid a visit to the hall in KKL-JNF’s head office in Jerusalem, where the large and impressive Golden Books of Honor are kept. Inscribed in them are the names of people from all over the world who have donated to a variety of projects for the benefit of Israel’s residents and their environment. This visit was also an occasion for some professional discussion, and the delegates acquired a deeper knowledge of the marketing tools at their disposal in the various departments of KKL-JNF’s Resources, Development and PR Division.

The delegation members concluded their visit with a tour of the Israel Air Force base at Tel Nof and a tree-planting session in Nachshon Forest. Filled to the brim with exciting experiences, they returned to Canada more connected to Israel than ever before, and fired with energy and motivation to promote the important projects that await them.




<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • RBC
  • Titi Tijani
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • PC Party
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Karyn and Mel Lazareck
  • Booke + Partners
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Jim Muir
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Viscont Gort
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Karyn & Mel Lazareck
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Red River Coop
  • Winnipeg Beach Home Building Centre
  • John Wishnowski
  • John Bucklaschuk
  • Tyler Bucklaschuk
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • Nick's Inn
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Elaine and Ian Goldstine
  • Josef Ryan
  • Western Scrap Metals Inc.
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Canada Awakening Ministries
  • Fair Service
  • Dr. Marshall Stitz
  • Shindico
  • Astroid Management Limited
  • Piston Ring
  • Commercial Pool
  • Robin Shapiro Photography
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Sorrento's
  • Roseman Corp
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Equitable Solutions
  • CVA Systems
  • Chochy's
  • Amalgamated Drywall
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Renew Mobility
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Grant Kurian Trucking
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
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.